Marcellus Shale and Natural Gas Drilling


This series of videos tak­en in Col­orado tells me it's not just coal, either. In North­ern Appalachia now (where I grew up) there has been a boom–maybe even a mega-boom–in nat­ur­al gas drilling of the Mar­cel­lus Shale area, and par­tic­u­lar­ly in my two home coun­ties, Brad­ford and Tio­ga in Penn­syl­va­nia.  From what I under­stand, most home and land pur­chas­es gen­er­al­ly don't have an agree­ment about min­er­al rights. They're sold sep­a­rate­ly, so many of the folks liv­ing there are get­ting wells drilled on their prop­er­ty whether they like it or not, and those who are savvy enough to know this are buy­ing their min­er­al rights back and then, in a heinous lack of fore­thought, sell­ing them to the gas com­pa­nies. It's hard to argue when you have mon­ey in large sums just wait­ing for a sig­na­ture, but what about the drink­ing water and oth­er envi­ron­men­tal impact?

The hydro-frac­tur­ing process these gas com­pa­nies are using drills down to 8000 feet or so using water and assort­ed chem­i­cals whose impact on the sur­round­ing ground­wa­ter is large­ly unknown. Since the com­pa­nies don't have to observe the Clean Water act–why is that, again?–they sim­ply don't.

And look at the sheer num­ber of drilling per­mits issued here:


This is a screen­shot of that map. That big pur­ple clus­ter in the mid­dle-left are the well per­mits issued for my home ter­ri­to­ry. Hell, the water we got from our well sucked grow­ing up any­way. It bub­bled fero­cious­ly, tast­ed like shit, and turned my clothes all kinds of funky col­ors. What's a few more tox­ic chem­i­cals whose effects no one knows?

I'm one of the Appalachi­an brain-drain kids. I left my home for grad school and the city, prob­a­bly for­ev­er, so I don't have a stake in this except that I spent the first 21 years of my life there, and 95% of my fam­i­ly live with­in fifty miles or less of these two coun­ties, and my pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the place has fed my writ­ing life for twen­ty-odd years now. Noth­ing big. :-/

But I'm at a loss for what to do and how to help. I have to think more about this, so for­give me the scat­ter­shot approach, and watch the series of videos, and imag­ine it hap­pen­ing in a place you love.

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