Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Marcellus Water Wars

Across Pennsylvania, that water wars continue to rage throughout the Marcellus Shale natural gas plays. One side, residents of towns and local consumers, claim their water is now flammable with toxic levels of methane due to natural gas production, a claim brought about in Josh Fox's documentary Gasland. The other side, that of the oil and gas companies, residents reaping the benefits of land leases, and towns (such as my own hometown of Zelienople, PA) seeing an influx of business from the natural gas workers. In a recent blog post by Robert Sumner, we read it may be $900 million per day to the US economy. Both sides may have some merit to their arguments. Personally, this article from Attorney Colin Harris relays everything I have been trying to say. There are always risk associated with extraction of natural resources, and as Mr. Harris puts it:

"Fracturing is conducted on more than 90% of wells drilled today. The practice benefits the economy, has kept natural gas prices at historic lows, and reduces our reliance on foreign energy supplies. Opponents of fracturing should be asked how they intend to duplicate these results, how they intend to find near and long term substitutes, and whether their position is in the best interests of lower-income Americans who benefit from affordable energy."

In an article on FuelFix, the U.S. EPA recently came out with the results of a study claiming that the high levels of methane gas in the water supply of Dimmock, Pennsylvania were not caused by natural gas drilling, yet residents still are not sure. Resident Scott Ely states, "They [U.S. EPA] recommended that we don’t drink or use the water, but told us they can’t go public with that." A claim I find hard to believe as this is the U.S. government essentially condoning the ingestion of chemical-laden materials. Not all residents will "get the memo" that it is secretely not safe to drink (or believe their claims) and many will drink it. I do not believe that the government, regardless of where you fall politically, would allow this to happen.

I urge you to become educated in these issues, as they are pressing ones that will affect us in different ways over the coming years. Natural gas production is here to stay, no matter how many protests and demonstrations go on around the nation. Wells will be drilled, land will be developed, money will flow in and out of the community. There is potential for royalties to you, but there is also the potential for harm. All natural resources extraction has risks. I cannot stress that enough, but I also cannot completely stress my full support of natural gas drilling in the United States. If you don't support it, you don't have a say in voting to make it cleaner. (Much like the argument, if you don't vote in the Presidential election, you don't have a right to complain about who got voted in because you did nothing to help the cause).

I urge you to check out some of these organizations that fall on both sides of the spectrum and create your own visions and values of this industry, then email me to let me know what you think:

In the words of Colin Harris:

"Opponents using air quality as a sword should be met with industry transparency and listening, public outreach and context, good science, dialogue about energy policy and natural gas, and hard questions about the motives behind the anti-fracturing movement. The hydraulic fracturing storyline about supposed environmental catastrophe should no longer get in the way of the truth."

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