5 myths about the Marcellus and natural gas industry

5 myths about the Marcellus and natural gas industry by Timothy Puko, September 2, 2012, Tribune-Review
Wells can leak whether they’re hydraulically fracked or not. … If you misidentify the problems, you misidentify the solutions,” said Mark D. Zoback, a Stanford University geophysicist and member of President Obama’s Shale Gas Development advisory committee. “Things get spilled, things get contaminated; when things aren’t drilled properly, it can cause environmental problems down the line. But hydraulic fracturing is really not the problem.” … Blowouts can happen underground, and there’s often no way to contain or clean up a spill that spoils an underground aquifer, they said. Chesapeake has not stopped a three-month leak in Bradford County. One well was part of a widespread methane leak that led to a record fine of nearly $1 million last year, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. … Some aquifers could take as many as 1 million years to flush themselves out, said Michael E. Webber, an engineer at the University of Texas. “It’s clear that you’re not going to have an accident on the scale of what happened in the Gulf of Mexico (the BP oil spill) … but you’re shifting an impact of scale for an impact in terms of time,” said Stephen B. Shaw, a hydrologist at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.


A 2011 Penn State University study funded by the Legislature did not find well-water pollution from drilling waste fluid or significant increases in methane levels in 48 private water wells within 2,500 feet of Marcellus shale gas wells. Researchers found that before gas drilling, 40 percent of those water wells failed at least one safe drinking water standard, usually for coliform bacteria, turbidity and manganese. About 20 percent had dissolved methane — typically below safety levels — before shale-gas drilling. … It’s unclear how much drillers contribute to the problem of flaming taps and methane contamination, they said. “We don’t do before-and-after studies. We only do after studies,” Webber said. [Emphasis added]

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