Jump to content


Photo

SERIOUS THREAT TO THE FISHING COMMUNITY


  • Please log in to reply
177 replies to this topic

#21 Kilgour Farms

Kilgour Farms

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts
  • LocationKilgour Farms, Hancock, NY

Posted 10 December 2008 - 10:10 PM

I urge every one to write to the DEC, I have. I will also add that the DEC has experts available to them and alot of these issues have been addressed by the DEC before.

eelwier,

Its obvious that you think drilling should be banned but have not yet given valid reason for your conclusions. Your obvious reasons have been and are being addressed.

I think people should expose themslves to all info thats out their and not just a couple of sites. Catskillmountainkeeper is one I read but I also read about 50 other site related to gas drilling.

I try to look at all information available before I make my decisions not just a couple of sources.

As far as companies doing the right thing, don't be so ignorant and take my statement out of context. Companies don't want to end up defending lawsuites. With the right regulations all will win. We need oversight not over regulation.

A ban does no one any good.

#22 stimyg

stimyg

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 88 posts

Posted 10 December 2008 - 10:16 PM

Personally, to some degree I actually agree with Kilgour Farms, at least his original point. I'm not against all drilling. I myself have heard of farmers who have been able to keep their land thanks to selling the drilling rights. And look, I'm not against anyone making money. As long as it's done correctly!

I've done some research. I'm no expert, but I've read a lot recently. It seems like it's theoretically possible to drill in a way that doesn't harm the environment or character of a community, overly. Whether or not that perfect-case scenario has ever happened in the real world, I don't know, depends who you ask.

But I absolutely 100% believe that you've got to force the gas industry to do it the right way. Might cost them a little bit more, but in the long run everyone wins. This might include all kinds of things that they wouldn't want to do -- no drilling anywhere near any waterways, no drilling in areas where the increased truck traffic would ruin the natural beauty and peace-of-mind of the people who live along those routes, a limited density of drilling so as not to ruin the character of existing rural communities, closed loop systems, etc, etc, etc. But there's probably hundreds of rules you need to impose in order to keep the gas companies doing it the right way, and nobody's going to do that unless we voice our concerns now.

(For the record, I don't buy the argument that we should ease up on the gas companies now because they'll do things the right way to avoid lawsuits. If that were true, there wouldn't ever be lawsuits, b/c everyone would behave perfectly out of fear of lawsuits. Clearly that is not the case.)

Think of it this way -- the price of gas is only going to go up, in one year, five years, ten years, a hundred years. (Especially from the basement it's in right now.) There's absolutely no reason to rush into this, and every reason to go slowly.

So write to the DEC before December 15th, and tell them to protect the trout and the character of our fly fishing waters! Will only take a few seconds.

#23 Kilgour Farms

Kilgour Farms

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts
  • LocationKilgour Farms, Hancock, NY

Posted 10 December 2008 - 10:34 PM

I'm not in love wth the gas companies either. Do I trust them, not entirely. This is where addendums come into play. For those who signed early the state will end up taking up the slack. For those who have the right addendums things can be very safe and luctrative.

The addendums are what make or break a good environmentaly friendly lease. This is why education about gas drilling is so important. You can't write good addendums unless you know what you want to protect.

#24 Leadfeathers

Leadfeathers

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 39 posts
  • LocationLong Valley, NJ

Posted 10 December 2008 - 10:43 PM

Dear Eelweir,

It is obvious you did not read Kilrour Farms link to Hydraulic Fracturing. It is a rather length study that addresses your concerns including use of water, disposal of contaminated fracturing fluids, controlling runoff, threats to fisheries, groundwater, drinking water etc...... And for those that wonder what mysterious proprietary toxic chemicals are used in fracturing fluids, the link identifies them along with their common every day use by people like you and I.

Their is no need to put your faith in the gas companies to “do the right thing” since they are highly regulated and observed. This is not an experiment! This is happening around the country.



P.S. Does anybody know how to copy text from the Hydraulic Fracturing link and paste it into this forum? That would make it easier to discuss concerns point by point.

Leadfeathers

#25 catskill mountain man

catskill mountain man

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 242 posts
  • Locationwarwick, NY

Posted 11 December 2008 - 12:48 AM

All this "they can drill properly" and "blah blah community will not suffer blah blah" is a bunch of horse they did it in the west and the air was fouled, the water was poisioned, the noise was "unbearable", and to add to poison the water had black sludge running in it. Why exploit our dwindling resources? Sure it was a no name river (most likely a tout haven) in montana yesterday, but now its the east branch. That whole system allows a massive amount of anglers to have an oppurtunity to catch big trout from NJ, NY, PA, CT, MA I have met people from delaware to texas fishing in that system.

Also I wonder what the drilling companies told the people out west when they were going to drill. "Oh it'll be fine a little noise here at around 2pm, going to draw a 'FEW' gallons *cough 'a second'* and if there is any contamination we will compensate completly." And the noise didnt stop the rivers ran practically dry and what water was left in the system might as well have been anti-freeze. They WILL drill and im already pissed about that but they are going to have to pay to get water from somewhere else.

AND another thing if they mess up that system IN THIS ECONOMY, oh my gosh the people who live around the delaware and its tribs will suffer even more than just being in a slumped wall street they will suffer a sharp drop in fishermen (fishermen= local money) on top of a horrible economy. messing with my streams damn eastern energy companies. Put me on a hamster wheel i'll run the powerplant as long as they dont touch my trout.

#26 eelweir

eelweir

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 23 posts

Posted 11 December 2008 - 02:37 AM

Ummm, I did read the hydraulic fracturing report posted by Kilgour taken from the Friendsville Group -- a pro-drilling site for landowners who are looking to sign gas sleases. The report had an obvious pro-drilling slant, no surprise there. There are lots of reports like that floating around on the internet both pro and con. I am not against drilling if it can be done in a safe way. Right now, the evidence I've seen says otherwise -- which is why I've written to the DEC and asked them to issue an entirely new Environmental Impact Statement adressing the many issues that have been already stated... I urge you all to do the same.

#27 eelweir

eelweir

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 23 posts

Posted 11 December 2008 - 04:46 PM

One more thing: can someone please name just one way that gas drilling will BENEFIT trout fishing in the Catskills? Will gas drilling provide better stream habitat, colder, cleaner water, better access, or a better fishing experience? Has Trout Unlimited come out in favor of gas drilling? This is a trout fishing website. It’s for folks who love trout fishing and cherish our trout streams. If you signed a gas lease and stand to receive some sort of windfall, good for you. But please don’t try to convince me that this will be harmless to trout fishing, because it is clear there are about a million ways that it will be BAD for our local trout streams. It insults my intelligence to have someone try to convince me otherwise. Perhaps some folks who signed leases may need to personally rationalize that this will be harmless to our fisheries and environment, so they feel the need to try to convince you, too. I don’t know and I don’t care. There are lots of other pro gas-leasing websites where you can crow about how good this will be for the local economy, how you negotiated a great lease, blah, blah, blah. I suggest you go there -- you’ll find a more sympathetic audience, at least from this angler. Meantime, please write to the DEC – you’ve got four more days…

#28 Kilgour Farms

Kilgour Farms

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts
  • LocationKilgour Farms, Hancock, NY

Posted 11 December 2008 - 06:18 PM

I’m just trying to educate people. I try to find out what is factual and what is hysteria. There is a lot of misinformation and misrepresentation being floated around out in the media and my goal is to disseminate fact from fiction.

I have been an outspoken advocate for using closed loop drilling and sealed container for production water. There are also new technologies coming out that recycle production water on site.

To read just a few articles or assume that what you read it the gospel you do a disservice to everyone.

I am a fishermen and a land owner on the river and have always tried to do what is best for the environment. The people best suited to protect the environment have always been the landowner.

I can see an alternative to signing a lease and that would be what has been done before. Sell the larger plots of land for development to pay the taxes, this means clear cutting acres of forest a lot more than drilling pads, more run off into the prized trout streams, new water wells, etc… What is worst?

#29 eelweir

eelweir

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 23 posts

Posted 11 December 2008 - 07:05 PM

I, too, am a fisherman and landowner in the Upper Delaware watershed. I have also had a lucrative gas lease waved in my face. And I, too, have read many, many articles on hydraulic fracturing from a variety of sources and am doing my best to separate fact from hysteria. Can’t we at least agree that environmentally sensitive areas – namely the Upper Delaware Watershed with its high-value fisheries and the source of drinking water for millions of people downstream – be off limits until the closed-loop system you mention – or any hydraulic fracturing for that matter – be tested and monitored for adverse affects specifically here in New York State? Keep in mind, the first wells proposed in Delaware County are practically right on the East Branch in a prime trout area.

Four more days before the deadline closes for comments…

#30 Leadfeathers

Leadfeathers

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 39 posts
  • LocationLong Valley, NJ

Posted 11 December 2008 - 07:16 PM

I guess I need to be brought up to speed on the effects of gas drilling on a fishery. I only know what I read and observe. So far I have not read or observed anything to indicate this is a big problem. If I had some data that this could be damaging to the fishery I would feel obligated to voice my objections.

I would be most grateful if eelweir would share the evidence he has seen that gas drilling can't /won't be done in a safe way in NY or PA. I think court rulings, environmental impact statements, his observations, news articles or even other websites that are con to gas drilling would be sufficient to write an pointed letter to the DEC. I really don't think general objections to gas drilling have as much impact as one addressing specific issues that have had a bad impact on a fishery, drinking water, the environment or the economy for the area.

I response to eelweir's question: 'Can someone please name just one way that gas drilling will BENEFIT trout fishing in the Catskills?', well I can think of a million ways. One million gallons of 80 degree water will not be going into the main stem in July and August. Not much of a benefit since it only amounts to 1.55 CFS but it helps.

To answer another question, No, TU has not come out in favor of gas drilling in the Catskills nor have they have not come out against it either. I guess they are waiting for all the facts.

By the way WELCOME to Catskill Flies. I really mean it. We all want and need your point of view.

Leadfeathers

#31 Leadfeathers

Leadfeathers

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 39 posts
  • LocationLong Valley, NJ

Posted 11 December 2008 - 07:25 PM

I guess I need to be brought up to speed on the effects of gas drilling on a fishery. I only know what I read and observe. So far I have not read or observed anything to indicate this is a big problem. If I had some data that this could be damaging to the fishery I would feel obligated to voice my objections.

I would be most grateful if eelweir would share the evidence he has seen that gas drilling can't /won't be done in a safe way in NY or PA. I think court rulings, environmental impact statements, his observations, news articles or even other websites that are con to gas drilling would be sufficient to write an pointed letter to the DEC. I really don't think general objections to gas drilling have as much impact as one addressing specific issues that have had a bad impact on a fishery, drinking water, the environment or the economy for the area.

I response to eelweir's question: 'Can someone please name just one way that gas drilling will BENEFIT trout fishing in the Catskills?', well I can think of a million ways. One million gallons of 80 degree water will not be going into the main stem in July and August. Not much of a benefit since it only amounts to 1.55 CFS but it helps.

To answer another question, No, TU has not come out in favor of gas drilling in the Catskills nor have they have not come out against it either. I guess they are waiting for all the facts.

By the way WELCOME to Catskill Flies. I really mean it. We all want and need your point of view.

Leadfeathers

#32 eelweir

eelweir

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 23 posts

Posted 11 December 2008 - 07:44 PM

This is from TU's website. Feel free to mine info from here for a letter to DEC...

Protecting our resources a priority
By RON URBAN

The Catskills and the southern tier of New York state are quickly becoming the epicenter for energy exploration in the East. In the biggest push for energy development there since World War II, oil and gas companies are swooping into upstate towns, sending "landmen" on a door-to-door campaign, buying the rights to drill for natural gas on private land.

It's all because of the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation there, and under it is a wealth of natural gas. To gain access to that gas, developers must blast a combination of sand, water, and chemicals up to 9,000 feet into the earth. The process, called hydraulic fracturing, could require the use of up to 6 million gallons of water per gas well. Over the next few years, in New York alone, thousands of wells are predicted to be constructed. The water to drill those wells will need to come from New York's rivers and streams which are already stressed by a number of factors.

On July 23, Gov. David Paterson signed a bill into law that will make it easier for gas companies to get permits to drill in New York. He also promised strong environmental safeguards. Subsequently, New York City officials asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to establish a one-mile wide protective perimeter around each of the city's six major Catskills reservoirs to protect these areas from drilling. Whether this will be enough protection is unclear. It is clear that the state needs to enforce regulations and adequately protects its water resources.

Some compare the natural gas drilling fervor to the rush for oil in the West, an area that has seen a 260 percent increase in drilling on public lands alone, along with severe localized declines in mule deer, adverse impacts on native trout, and diminished water quality. And now, thanks to rising natural gas prices, an increased demand for energy and new technology, developing gas deposits in the East's Marcellus Shale has become a viable option.

As alluring as the short-term economic benefits may be — particularly in economically-depressed areas of the state — the deleterious effects of this natural gas boom will persist for decades. Hydraulic fracturing is destructive. As the natural gas comes to the surface, so do millions of gallons of chemical-laden wastewater that must be properly treated. And right now, New York does not presently possess a single facility to treat the wastewater.

Drilling will occur in parts of New York where wild trout live, wild turkeys roam and bald eagles nest. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, every year more than $3 billion is generated for the state and local communities from fishing, hunting, and wildlife-related recreation.

State officials must ensure that the rush to develop short-term energy is not allowed to compromise this sustainable economic powerhouse, and the health benefits of outdoor recreation. It is also imperative that the state protect its citizens from the effects of the drilling.

New York and surrounding states should develop such native energy resources as the Marcellus Shale. But not before state officials better understand the potential impacts of development on citizens, local communities, fish, wildlife and water resources. For example, geologists estimate that one drilling site could exist on every 40 to 140 acres in the area. Given the unprecedented nature and scale of this effort, New York state lawmakers and agency officials must set stringent standards, and associated penalties for non-compliance with these standards, to ensure that our drinking water is safe and that our rivers don't run dry. These state standards are more important than ever because the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts drilling activities in the Marcellus Shale from the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As this process unfolds, the opportunity also exists for oil and gas companies to demonstrate their commitment to protecting New York communities and natural areas. By developing industry-led best practices for construction, water withdrawal and wastewater disposal, these companies can show the state and the country that energy development does not have to be synonymous with ecological degradation.

Like it or not, natural gas drilling in New York and the surrounding areas will occur. Along with it exists the potential for an untold level of social and environmental damage. As the nation looks to the East to broaden domestic energy supplies, New York state has the opportunity to set an example to protect some of its most valuable and irreplaceable natural areas. It must do so without delay.

Ron Urban is New York chair of Trout Unlimited, a coldwater fisheries organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of trout and salmom fisheries and their watersheds. His e-mail address is ronsgonefishing@aol.com.

#33 stimyg

stimyg

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 88 posts

Posted 11 December 2008 - 09:21 PM

Ok, I didn't want to bring this up, but the challenge to 'cite sources' compels me. Here's a source for you -- it's me, and this was my experience from my very home, right here in the Catskills, over the last few months:

I have a place on the river, and often fish just downstream from there. Last August, right across from the best fishing hole in the area, work began on an access road to service the Millennium Pipeline. Trucks and construction equipment would roar and honk and beep at all hours of the day and night. I'm talking constant construction-type racket, first thing in the morning, all day long, and well into the middle of the night. I got up at 1AM one weekend night to use the bathroom, and the trucks were still there, beeping and roaring as always, god only knows what they were doing. I wake up to construction, I go to sleep to construction. And this is absolutely 7 days a week.

Maybe the trout weren't bothered. But the people that lived there were, and I guarantee any trout fisherman within 1/2 mile was long gone from this virtual construction site. My idea of fly fishing, it ain't.

I called the town and asked what the scope and length of the project would be. I was told it'd only be a month or so. Fine, no problem. But that was in August. It's now December, and the trucks are still there, and last I heard I could expect the disturbances to continue at least through February.

Look - I understand this is one relatively minor incident. But if it's any indication of what's to come, it's certainly an inauspicious beginning.

(And as for the trout -- I didn't catch a single one in that spot all fall, a spot which had done great for me before. I'm not saying the work really did scare off the trout. I'm fisherman enough to blame myself for getting skunked, god knows I do it enough. But I'm not saying they didn't hurt the trout, either. And remember, this little access road iis just the beginning.)

Four more days to write to the DEC!

#34 Kilgour Farms

Kilgour Farms

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts
  • LocationKilgour Farms, Hancock, NY

Posted 11 December 2008 - 10:54 PM

Just for your info, the DEC has received three permit applications from CHK, Chesapeake Energy, these permits are for Peters Farm, Milk Farm and Anderson.
Peters is closest to east branch but still about a mile away.

The Peters Farms will have 1 drilling pad with three horizontal legs, 3000' each at 7000' deep. The unit is 640 acres=1sqm, low impact.

Milk has two at 7000' deep with 3000' laterals again 640 acres one pad.

The Anderson is drilling is a verticle well only and is for test purposes it is in a 167 acre unit @ 7800' deep.

Most drilling will be horizontal in this area therefore 640 acres will be used which will have a lower impact. The wells are deeper here than the wells out west which are almost all verticle and coal bed methane, a BIG difference.

All waste water will be containedand shipped to processing facilities in PA.

This could be a great opportunity for NYS to get in the forefront of recycling water. High tech, high paying jobs. Just what Hancock needs.

#35 easterncaster

easterncaster

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 524 posts
  • Locationburlington flats and jersey city

Posted 12 December 2008 - 02:23 AM

all,

my feeling on the Peas Eddy water sale:

as it is, and has been for quite some years, the lower east branch does not have enough water in it during the warm months. to remove water from an already skinny inventory is troublesome to me. now if the city were to release water to compensate, well that's a different story.

i was and am quite serious in my prior posting that the city should be approached and pressured first to allow water to be taken from the reservoir(s).

craig

#36 Kilgour Farms

Kilgour Farms

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts
  • LocationKilgour Farms, Hancock, NY

Posted 12 December 2008 - 04:44 AM

Here are companies that specialize in production water recycling.

The last site is a portable unit and is going on line in PA in 2009.

The solution?

http://www.ecospheretech.com

http://www.stwresources.com/index.html

http://www.aqua-pure... ... cling.html

http://www.individua...?story=93340426

Were there is a will there is a way.

#37 Kilgour Farms

Kilgour Farms

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts
  • LocationKilgour Farms, Hancock, NY

Posted 12 December 2008 - 02:42 PM

United States: Marcellus Shale: Material Drinking Water Risks?

http://www.mondaq.co...articleid=70584

01 December 2008

Article by Seth v.d.H. Cooley and David M. DeSalle

If natural gas prices continue to fall as a result of the current economic downturn, the rush for a piece of the Marcellus Shale action may also subside. After all, the long-known deposits of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region, which stretches from New York State to Tennessee, have been all the rage in 2007 and 2008, largely because the price of fossil fuels spiked. But whether drilling happens now or later, it is expected to happen, and one of the oft-asked questions is this: Does the hydraulic fracturing ("fracing") of subsurface rock formations necessary to enhance the extraction of Marcellus Shale gas deposits carry with it a material risk of contamination of potable groundwater? A second question is emerging, driven by expanding land development, climate change concerns, and the recent memory of Georgia's acute water shortage: Is fracing too water intensive?

These questions are of obvious concern to many landowners who have been asked or have agreed to lease their land to gas exploration and production companies, particularly landowners whose land is located in an area where public drinking water is not supplied. While guarantees cannot be provided, the good news for current and prospective lessors (and their neighbors) is threefold: (a) fracing is a well-established and long-employed technology having an established safety record, (B) fracing in the Marcellus deposit occurs well below the depths at which drinking water aquifers are located, and © regulators appear to be focused on the subject of drinking water protection (quality and quantity) ahead of the fact, not after the fact. This focus stands in sharp contrast to earlier experiences, such as that with underground storage tanks, which were in use (or in some cases, leaking!) for many decades before regulations were written to protect aquifers.

Fracing
Fracing is a process employed to cause natural gas to move more freely from the rock pores where it is trapped into a drilled well than it could otherwise move. Fracing involves the high-pressure injection of fracturing fluids into discrete sections of the drilled well, causing fractures in the rock and pushing them open. The fracturing fluids consist primarily of water and sand. A small percentage of the fluid consists of chemical additives, including friction reducers and bactericides. The function of the sand is to prevent the fractures from closing when the high pressure is released.

Groundwater Contamination Concerns
Two principal concerns about groundwater contamination have been expressed. The first is that the fracing process itself will cause fracing fluids and/or natural gas to contaminate drinking water aquifers. The second is that fracing fluid mismanagement or other aboveground activities at the drilling site could result in surface spills or other events that in turn will cause groundwater or surface water contamination.

The first of these concerns is being actively addressed in those states and water basins subject to the jurisdiction of regulatory bodies governing water withdrawal. These regulatory bodies include, in addition to state environmental protection departments, the Delaware River Basin Commission ("DRBC") and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission ("SRBC"). The DRBC, a federal-state compact that has legal authority over both water quality and water quantity-related issues arising in the Delaware River basin, has published an informational document advising of its concern, among others, that gas drilling may have a "substantial effect on the water resources of the basin" by reducing the flow in streams and/or aquifers used to supply the significant amounts of fresh water needed in the natural gas mining process. The DRBC expressed itself this way because under its governing compact, "No project having a substantial effect on the water resources of the basin shall hereafter be undertaken by any person, corporation or governmental authority unless it shall have been first submitted to and approved by the commission . . . ." The bottom line is that any Marcellus Shale project within the Delaware River basin must be approved by the DRBC before being undertaken.

Process aside, concern about groundwater contamination has received little substantive support from either regulators or the scientific community. For example, Alexander Grannis, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, while expressing the need for study of the impact of water consumption on public water supplies, has publicly testified that no realistic risk of groundwater contamination from the fracing process exists: Grannis said, "It is important to understand that the hydraulic fracturing takes places many thousands of feet underground, well below any groundwater zones. Groundwater zones are typically hundreds, not thousands, of feet below the surface. The same geology that has sealed natural gas in the rock for millions of years - together with our strict well casing and cementing requirements - prevents any risk of groundwater contamination from the drilling and fracking operation. As a result, the only likely vector for possible threats to groundwater comes from the surface management of the water used in the drilling and fracking operations." (Testimony before the New York State Assembly Hearing on Oil and Gas Drilling, October 15, 2008).

In a like vein, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission states on its website that, "In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed a study of the environmental risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing of coal bed methane wells. The EPA concluded that the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids poses little or no threat to underground sources of drinking water. Although thousands of wells are fractured annually, the EPA did not find a single incident of the contamination of drinking water wells by hydraulic fracturing fluid injection. Effective state regulation has made hydraulic fracturing a safe and environmentally-sound way to maximize and conserve our nation's natural resources." (See http://www.iogcc.sta...ulic-fracturing).

From the environmentalist community, charges have been made that hydraulic fracturing may result in groundwater contamination. Typically, these charges are relatively mild. For example, the Catskill Riverkeeper organization, while noting "cases in the U.S. where hydraulic fracturing is the suspected source of impaired or polluted drinking water," acknowledges that these are not cases involving fracing at the depths involved with the Marcellus region: "Most of these incidences involve coal-bed methane production, which is a much shallower drilling process . . . ." (See http://catskillmount...er.org/node/290).

As for contamination at the ground surface resulting from spills, overflows from storage basins, etc., it is evident that risks exist. However, most of the risks appear to be in line with those associated with the collection, storage, transportation and overall management of wastewater streams generated by numerous other industrial processes. Permitting and regulatory programs already exist to address these risks, which are identifiable and quantifiable.

Groundwater Usage Concerns
The amount of groundwater and/or surface water needed to perform hydraulic fracturing is, by all accounts, substantial. But will it lower aquifers and surface water bodies to levels that pose risks? The answers that are offered in response to these questions differ, of course, based on the source. An Upper Delaware region grassroots organization – Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Inc. – that is focused on environmental issues believed to be associated with Marcellus drilling, describes "The Real Impact of Gas Drilling" as including "Depletion of Water Tables." (See http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/naturalgas.htm). Ultimately, whether, and to what extent, water resource impairment is a significant concern will likely depend on the specific location of the proposed water withdrawal and the levels of available groundwater or surface water at the time of withdrawal. Areas not clearly subject to water withdrawal regulation and oversight are by definition more likely to see disputes and, perhaps, impacts.

Regulatory Review
At present, each of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the DRBC, and the SRBC, among other regulatory agencies, are reviewing water withdrawal and/or protection issues associated with drilling for gas in the Marcellus formation. Indeed, some of these bodies are working together: "DRBC is currently working with other regulatory and scientific agencies at the federal and state levels to refine review criteria. Although DRBC's authority is separate from the states' authorities, the commission is working with Pennsylvania and New York to coordinate agency actions and minimize unnecessary duplication of effort in the issuance of DRBC permits or 'dockets' to natural gas drilling companies." (See http://www.state.nj..../naturalgas.htm).

Particular concern has been expressed by the City of New York, for the simple reason that it obtains drinking water for its citizens from an upstate New York watershed that is located within the Marcellus region. In a July, 2008 letter to the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection made a number of requests relating to protection of the City's water supply. These requests included various clarifications, affirmations and commitments to such things as the formation of a technical working group, and public review and comment under New York's State Environmental Quality Review Act. Most notably, the City Commissioner's letter requests the creation of a drilling exclusion zone within a one-mile buffer of all City water infrastructure components, including reservoirs, tunnels, and shafts. This request follows the statement in the City Commissioner's letter that, "We are not advocating a veto of the bill; rather we seek to work with DEC to ensure that the New York City watershed is recognized as a unique resource requiring special protection before this activity is authorized within the City's watershed." (Letter from Emily Lloyd, Commissioner, City of New York Department of Environmental Protection to Alexander Grannis, Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, July 18, 2008).

Summary
Most signs point to the readiness, if not willingness, of environmental regulatory bodies to permit gas extraction wells in the Marcellus formation. Certainly there will be differing degrees of regulatory process, from state to state, designed to satisfy agency and/or public demands for assurance of environmental protection. The extent to which opponents of drilling projects will obtain "traction" will likely be a function of the frequency and severity of the occasions when adverse environmental impact is tied to some aspect of a drilling operation. For example, as recently reported in The State Journal of Charleston, West Virginia (November 20, 2008), brine from gas well drilling in Pennsylvania (Oct. 10, 2008) led to excessive total dissolved solids (in this case, salts) being discharged from a wastewater treatment plant into the Monongahela River, leading in turn to impairment of water quality in that river. By October 22, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ordered nine wastewater treatment plants on the Monongahela River to curtail treatment of gas well drilling brine until further notice. The occurrence of a few more "issues" of this kind – particularly as the number of gas wells increases – may put a damper on the Marcellus "gas rush" that to this point has been heavily advertised as a classic "win-win."

#38 eelweir

eelweir

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 23 posts

Posted 12 December 2008 - 05:06 PM

Gosh, I don’t know where to begin with all the information provide by Kilgour. I guess I’ll start with the fact that one of the wells is a mile from the East Branch. Is that supposed to make us fishermen feel better? Whether it’s a mile from the river or or a foot from the river, in the in the watershed is in the watershed. Kind of like being a little pregnant. Either you are or you’re not.

Here are some other interesting numbers to consider, and I include these because I think they relate to the fishing experience: Each well requires between 2-9 million gallons of water. That translates to between 320-1,440 truck trips (each truck hauls approx. 5,000 gallons of water). Then there would be another 700 smaller waste hauler truckloads to transport the toxic fracking fluids away from each site. So if we’re talking about the well off Pea’s Eddy Road, which is best described as a quiet country road, to those who like to fish there, or live along that road, you will soon have the N.J. Turnpike in your backyard. Imagine 1,440 truck trips, and that’s just to start fracking.
Since we’re all about sources, I got that one from: http://www.earthwork...hydfracking.cfm

Then your sentiment about “high-tech, high-paying jobs” for “recycling water,” and “just what Hancock needs.” First let’s call a spade a spade: “recycling water” means treating toxic and radioactive fracking water. So are you suggesting that Hancock builds a hazardous waste facility so all of the gas companies from far and wide can drive their trucks into town to dispose of toxic fluids???? WOW! The chamber of commerce and local bureau of tourism would LOVE that suggestion!! I can see the sign now: “Welcome to Hancock: Gateway to the Upper Delaware and Home to the Largest Toxic Waste Facility in the Catskills.” Has a nice ring to it.

Lastly, the report you posted entitled “United States: Marcellus Shale: Material Drinking Water Risks?” by Seth v.d.H. Cooley and David M. DeSalle. I googled the authors… do you know who they are? They are defense lawyers whose representatives include the oil and gas industry and chemical companies. Their “accomplishments” include (and I am now quoting directly off their own bios): “Counsel to national analytical laboratory company in all aspects of the aftermath of a hazardous compressed gas cylinder explosion at the client's facility in New Jersey. The explosion resulted in multiple deaths, personal injuries, releases of hazardous gases from other hazardous compressed gas cylinders, a fire, site contamination from chemical releases exacerbated by fire water run-off, an area-wide evacuation, a class action by evacuees, personal injury, property damage and business interruption claims and litigation, insurance claims and coverage issues, a criminal investigation, and an OSHA proceeding.” Here’s another: “Defense and resolution on terms the client found favorable of aerospace industry manufacturer in multiple personal injury and property damage claims arising out of TCE ground water contamination at captive NPL site in Pennsylvania. “

WOW, AGAIN – that’s reassuring!!!! These guys sound great!! Look, if you’re going to post “facts” about gas drilling, try to find someone a little more reputable than these guys. Again, I think something from Trout Unlimited would be a much more objective endorsement. But we already heard what they had to say.

Three more days to comment, fellas…

#39 Kilgour Farms

Kilgour Farms

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts
  • LocationKilgour Farms, Hancock, NY

Posted 12 December 2008 - 05:22 PM

Since we’re all about sources, I got that one from: http://www.earthwork...hydfracking.cfm

This is one of the first site I visited over 2 years ago. Its like reading the Damascus for citizen sustainability. Allot of info but not much on technical details to back it up.

Some of your info is suspect and lacks substance. If you can find resources with more detail on contamination, amounts, causes etc.. I would like to read it, I would be very interested in anything you can provide as it relates to the Marcellus and contanination. Knowledge is power the more we know the better we will all be.

#40 Kilgour Farms

Kilgour Farms

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts
  • LocationKilgour Farms, Hancock, NY

Posted 12 December 2008 - 05:36 PM

Whether you agree or diagree this article is well researched and written.

If anyone can find detailed info to dispute parts or all of the paper I would be interested in reading it.

A Broad Look At The Environmental Issues Of Natural Gas Drilling

by Kevin Lewis of The Friendsville Group

INTRO

There is a lot of concern about the environmental issues related to drilling natural gas wells. There is a lot of confusion about those issues as well. The industry prefers to withhold information and wants you to believe that everything is just fine. On the other hand, many of the environmental groups would have you believe that each new well is the start of another Love Canal episode. I’m convinced that the truth is somewhere in the middle. But it’s hard to find a web site or news article related to gas well drilling that is complete and unbiased. I should mention though, one very good source of fact based information is the Oil & Gas Accountability Project’s, “Oil & Gas At Your Door?” (see sources at end). What I’ve tried to do in this report is separate the truth from the nonsense and put this information into perspective. The opinions expressed in this report are my own opinions and should not be considered the opinions of the streering committee or the group as a whole.

THE DEC

One of the best reasons for writing our own lease is to have some control over environmental issues. Although our NY DEC claims to be our ‘protector’, many question whether they will be able to handle any increase in gas drilling in our area. New York has only 4 site inspectors compared to Pennsylvania’s 32. You have to wonder how they’ll be able to cover the territory and be at the drill sites during critical stages. At a recent local meeting, I felt that they provided vague, incomplete answers to serious questions. When pressed further, it became apparent that they ‘regulate’ the drilling companies more through the ‘permitting process’ rather than on-site monitoring. I think that there are some real weak spots in the DEC policies which are mentioned further in this report.

RESEARCH

One of the main things that struck me while doing my research was ‘the numbers’. There aren’t a large number of publicized accidents, spills, etc.. Why is that? Normally, whenever there’s an incident involving water, soil or air pollution, the media is all over it. When visiting environmental sites to find examples of ‘gas wells gone wrong’, it’s mostly the same few incidents and locations that keep showing up. Considering the number of wells drilled all over the US in the past 10 to 20 years, you’d think that there would be many more well publicized incidents if well drilling is as hazardous as some claim.

Critics say there isn’t enough information about the effects of drilling. I say, if you want to study the effects of drilling, just look to Texas, the most-drilled state in the nation. The state of Texas alone had over 1.5 million wells drilled in the last century, yet they still have ample supplies of drinkable water and usable land. It has 266,820 active oil wells and 88,048 active gas wells … that’s a total of 354,868 active over 75,000 wells drilled in New York State in the last century. Over 100 of them are in Broome and Tioga counties. I was unable to find reports of any gas well related catastrophes here in NY or in Texas.

But, there have been problems elsewhere. Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming are clear examples of mismanagement and lack of monitoring by ‘the authorities’ (Bureau of Land Management, EPA, and State Agencies). But in each case, the scope of the drilling had a lot to do with the problems. The drilling in those areas has been so heavy and so concentrated that the terrain resembles an ant farm. The agencies failed to stay ahead of the situation and in some cases common sense was ignored.

If the Marcellus ever truly becomes ‘the next Barnett’ we may need to adapt. But, for the near future, we will not see the extreme level of drilling that caused all the air pollution in Wyoming. And if common sense is used, we won’t see soil pollution like New Mexico or water pollution like Colorado (reasons explained later). I believe the pace of drilling here will proceed slowly when you consider that 1) many gas companies are still focusing on the Barnett Shale in Texas 2) there are several other new and emerging gas fields in the nation 3) there are a limited number of drill rigs in the US 4) the Marcellus Shale covers a huge area, including PA and West Virginia.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS

I’ve separated the environmental concerns into two categories: MINOR and MAJOR:

Minor Concerns:

Noise, Lights, Dust, Truck Traffic, Road Deterioration, Loss of ‘Green Space’, Loss of Hunting Area, Habitat Fragmentation

I just don’t get excited about the above mentioned issues. There will be noise, odor, dust, dirt, and mud. Roads will be torn up by heavy truck traffic and some trees will be cut down. But all of these issues are temporary. Roads can be repaved, grass and trees grow back, and life will return to normal when the drilling is finished. I remember during my childhood, having our neighborhood torn up for new gutters, sewers, and pavement … a project that took many months. It was loud, dusty, smelly, and inconvenient, but we survived and everyone was happy with the results. Imagine if a large corporation bought a chunk of wooded land locally to build a new factory. Most would see it as a ‘great thing’ for our area in terms of the jobs and economic boost it would provide. Yet, we’d experience many of the same inconveniences. Gas leasing and production can provide jobs and a serious economic boost as well. You don’t get something for nothing.

* It’s important to note that, although a typical vertical well may take 4 to 6 weeks to complete, some of the newer horizontal drilling plans may take 2 to 3 times longer. This is due to the fact that they can drill several ‘offshoot’ wells from the same horizontal drill pad. Although this is more of a nuisance in the early going, it greatly reduces the number of roads, pits, and pads required.

Major Concerns:

Water Pollution, Soil Pollution, Air Pollution, Water Table Depletion, Catastrophic Accidents (blowouts, explosions, fires, etc.)

For many people, the biggest issue is the chemicals that are added to the frac water and drilling muds. Exactly what chemicals are used and how much is not fully known. The Energy Bill of 2005 exempts oil & gas companies from having to disclose the proprietary chemical contents of drilling & completing processes. But the most commonly sited hazardous chemicals reported to be in these fluids are: acetone, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene. These are all toxic and/or carcinogenic substances that have well-known and serious negative health effects.

What hasn’t been made clear is the level of risk assumed at the concentrations used. If a drilling accident or spill occurred, would the exposure level from soil, water, or air contamination be lethal, moderate, or minuscule? And how does it compare to the exposure we experience every day from products in our homes, automobile exhaust and our local factories? We need to put it in perspective. Again, the industry says this almost never happens and if it ever did, the exposure levels would be so low that it would not present a serious problem. On the other side are the environmentalists who claim that it does happen and it is a serious problem. What’s the real story?

Water Pollution - How often does it happen? Again, let’s look at Texas. The Texas Groundwater Protection Committee’s Joint Groundwater Monitoring and Contamination Report – 2004 (TGPC, 2005) lists 1,440 groundwater contamination cases (of all types) in a twenty-county study area. This 20 county area includes the Barnett Shale ‘sweet spot’ where heavy drilling has occurred. What they discovered was that the vast majority of cases did not involve oil & gas field operations but rather spills and leaks of finished petroleum products. Of these cases:

- 1,428 cases were not related to oil & gas field operation and involved contamination by gasoline, diesel, or products, mostly (1,020) related to releases from petroleum storage tank facilities.

- 12 cases were related to gas & oilfield activities.

The report did not state the scope of the contamination and the impacts each case had, but it puts it into perspective … only 12 out of 1,440 contaminations were due to gas & oilfield operations. By comparison, it doesn’t seem to be a huge problem, even in heavily drilled Texas.

Here at home, the NY State Office of the Attorney General states that, “Oil spills from leaking underground storage tanks at homes and gas stations are the largest single threat to groundwater quality in the United States today. An estimated 1.2 million tanks nationwide, many of which were installed prior to new regulations in 1988, are a concern because tanks corrode quickly when buried unprotected in the soil. Corrosion, and other factors such as improper installation, spills during product delivery, and piping failures, have already caused more than 400,000 confirmed underground storage tank leaks nationwide.” A 1998 survey by the DEC found that gasoline spills contaminated more than 800 private wells and forty-seven public water supply wells in New York State. This is something that

is happening, but no one’s talking about shutting down gas stations. An occasional well accident is something that iscould happen and people are talking about abandoning the natural gas industry.

Nonetheless, water pollution from gas and oilfield operations can happen, and it can happen in a couple of different ways:

- Well Casing/Cement Failure - After the well casing (piping) is put in the ground, the drilling company pumps cement along the outside of the casing from top to bottom. This seals off the surrounding rock layers from the gas and high pressure frac water, preventing contamination of any underground water. If the cementing of the well casing is not done properly, or if the cement does not seal off as it should (during the high-pressure frac’ing process), the frac water could flow up along the outside of the well bore and into other layers of rock which may contain well water. * The DEC doesn’t require that the cement be tested for strength as it is in bridges and buildings.

From what I’ve been able to determine, well casing or cementing failures are an extremely rare occurrence as the industry claims. I’ve only found 2 cases where gas well casing failures caused water well pollution. I saw mention of another in Madison, Ohio but apparently it was only methane that found it’s way into the water (no fluids). I could not find any further details about that one. I wouldn’t doubt that there are more, but for all the hours of searching I did, this is all I could come up with.

CASE #1 - In Grandview, Texas, (Jan 2008) it is thought (but not proven) that the well casing or concrete failed during the frac’ing process of a newly drilled gas well. In this case, high sulfate concentrations, other contaminants, and traces of toluene were found in 3 water wells within a couple hundred yards of the gas well. The water wells were drilled into a shallow groundwater supply called the Woodbine aquifer. At two different times after the incident, the landowners had the water tested by independent labs which confirmed the previous results. The article did not state what the actual levels were but, in each test, the toluene was below the EPA max. acceptable level. * It should be noted in this case that the EPA had tested this aquifer several years before the drilling took place and found that 61% of the samples were above the EPA limits for sulfates with traces of other gasoline additives, insecticides, pesticides, and solvents. So it seems believable that the gas well was not responsible for all of the contamination. The original news article never mentioned this, nor have any of the environmental sites that are using this incident as an example. I’ve not been able to find any reports of the contamination spreading to any other local wells.

CASE #2 - In Clark, Wyoming, (Aug 2006) a drilling rig hit an extremely high-pressured gas pocket at about 8,500 feet. The gas shot up the well with enough force that it blew out a weak spot in the side of the well casing (underground). In this episode, one water well on an adjacent property was affected and it has tested above EPA limits for toluene. As in case #1, the article did not say what the exact toluene levels were. Were they way above the limit or just slightly above? No mention was made of any follow-up testing and what the results might have been. Monitoring wells have been dug all around the affected area. Again, I have been keeping an eye out for articles and reports of the contamination spreading, but have found none.

Note: Environmentalists often site two cases in Texas (towns of Chico-2005 & DeBerry-1997) where nearby water wells were contaminated, but these were not gas wells involved. They were ‘injection wells’ (discussed later) into which the state of Texas allows all kinds of drilling wastes to be pumped at high pressure. It was determined that the operators were pumping into the wells at excessive pressures.

This is the type of accident (well casing/ cement failure), though, that would pose the biggest risk to a major aquifer. But how much of a risk? Critics warn that one well accident could condemn the drinking water for large portions of the state. How likely is this? The first accident mentioned above affected only 3 nearby water wells, with toluene levels below EPA limits. The second blowout did put toluene levels above the EPA limit but has so far only affected one nearby water well. How much effect would this type of accident truly have on a major aquifer, where the dilution rate would be considerable? With the millions of wells drilled in this country, can anyone find a case of an entire aquifer being condemned due to a gas drilling mishap? I can’t, and something of that magnitude would be hugely publicized. As I said before, this type of failure is extremely rare. Part of the reason may be that, this the last thing that the drilling company wants. If it does happen, the well is ruined and it’s a major loss for the gas company at $3 - $5 million per well.

- Pit Failure - Most drilling companies keep their contaminated waste water in open earthen pits that have a one-piece poly liner covering the bottom and sides of the pit. Accidental contamination can occur if the waste water escapes from the pits into the surrounding soil and leaches into a nearby water supply. These spills can be caused by poor pit construction (cave-ins), torn liners, and stormwater overflows. In my opinion, these pits are the weakest link in the whole drilling process.

This type of accident occurs more frequently, but again, in relation to the number of wells drilled, it’s not an everyday occurrence. There are however, several recent and well publicized incidents of contamination due to waste water pits leaking. Four of those incidents occurred in Garfield County, Colorado where the drilling companies located their pits right on the banks of a popular irrigation-source river. The pits leaked and the waste water went right into the river (duh!). Colorado has since introduced legislation that prohibits the use of open pits within a certain distance to rivers and streams. In such cases, drillers are now required to use ‘closed loop’ systems where the water is pumped directly from the well equipment into a holding tank. * The NY DEC has no such regulation and allows pits to be within 50 ft of rivers and streams (duh!). It’s been shown that ‘closed loop’ systems actually save the drilling companies money while reducing their liability. With environmental pressure building, we’ll see more of these systems in use.

One of the issues here is the thickness of the poly liners used in these pits. I’ve heard that some liners are only about 6 mil, while other states such as Michigan require 50 mil. * Unfortunately, the NY DEC has no spec for the liner thickness. There’s been a lot of attention paid to Hickory, PA, where a pit liner leak apparently contaminated a landowner’s pond. This case has been exploited by the ‘anti-drilling’ environmental groups, one of whom made several videos of the landowner and a few neighbors relating the problems they’ve experienced due to the gas wells. These videos are very one-sided, long on sentiment and short on fact but they can be seen at damascuscitizens.org.

New Mexico is another area often sited by environmental groups and, it’s true, they’ve had some serious pollution due to these waste pits. However, most of it is due to the fact that, for a long time, they never even required pit liners. Drilling companies are required to immediately report pit failures or any other episode resulting in contamination. Small pit/liner leaks may take several days to notice with small volumes released. Major pit/liner leaks are usually noticed quickly. Requiring a thicker pit liner may be an option when writing the terms for our lease.

- Ground Spills - Accidental ground spills of gasoline, diesel fuel, and other liquids can occur on a drill site just like any other industrial or construction site. Most spills of this type are small spills because human error is involved and the mistakes are quickly detected/corrected. Determining an average frequency of these incidents is very difficult, but after reviewing several monthly reports (for the state of Texas), it would seem that a typical month might record 30 well-related spills of all types. The spill materials are put into 3 categories, “crude oil, gas well fluid, and products”. Of the 30 incidents, 5 might involve gas well fluids from a tank (as opposed to a pipeline or other container). Reasons for the spills were things such as “opened wrong valve”, “internal rust or corrosion”.

- Injection Wells - In some states drilling companies are allowed to drill “disposal wells’ deep into porous rock formations. They then pump the contaminated waste water from drilling operations into these wells. The wastes are supposedly down so far that they can never make their way back up to the strata where fresh water supplies exist. * The DEC says that there are ‘a few’ injection wells in NY and that those are used for solution salt mining. A search on the DEC web site for all active wells in NY seems to indicate that this is true. It’s unclear however, how they monitor what wastes actually wind up in these wells. Injections wells are something that we don’t want in our area and, if need be, we can word our lease to prevent this from happening.

- Water Table Disturbance - Any time a well is drilled through a water table, it’s bound to ‘stir up’ the water and sediment. This can happen with water wells or gas wells and it is not uncommon. One article I read explained that, naturally occurring hydrogen sulfide and salt tend to lie on the bottom of the aquifers, but when disturbed, they can mix with the water to deliver an unpleasant taste and odor. But the disturbance is usually minimal and clears up a short time afterward. In extreme cases, very small water wells can empty into the well shaft before the crews have a chance to set the casing and concrete. These small wells are typically very shallow and will be replenished over time by rain water or ‘bleed’ from another nearby underground pool.

Disturbing other layers of rock close to the water table can sometimes cause low levels of natural gas to find it’s way into water wells. This can happen even when drilling another water well on an adjacent property. In some cases, the problem may actually be due to a rusted or corroded casing of the water well itself. A Canadian study has shown that the fugitive methane is often neutralized (oxidized) by bacteria in the water. But with larger amounts of methane, for wells located outside of any structure, simply installing a vented well cap may provide sufficient venting prior to water entering the home.

Should any of the above conditions occur, the DEC should be notified and they will have the drilling company set up an alternate water supply. In any event, this emphasizes the importance of pre-drill water testing and having a properly worded lease to help ensure that the drilling company corrects the situation and/or pays for another suitable water well for you.

Soil Contamination - The causes of soil contamination are the same as for water contamination mentioned above. In addition, some states allow ‘land farming’. This where the small pieces of rock from the drilling operation are washed and then spread over any nearby fields. There are some concerns about this practice due to the fact that the bits of shale and other materials brought up by the drilling process may have a low level of radioactivity . These materials are known as NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials). So how bad is this stuff?

This is one thing that the DEC has tested (from NY wells) and it has been found to be extremely low level, in most cases indistinguishable from ‘background’ readings. Terry Engelder, prominent Geology Professor at Penn State, says the level of radioactivity is so low that it is comparable to that given off by the luminescent dials we find on wrist watches. Regardless, the DEC has said that on-site land farming is not allowed; that all such wastes are to be trucked to an off-site, certified waste disposal area.

AIR POLLUTION

- Exhaust From Machinery - The largest source of air pollution would probably be the exhaust from trucks, generators, and drill rigs, all of which are operating around the clock. Environmental sites warn of the ‘smoke belching’ diesel engines releasing benzene and other particulate matter into the air. But, how is this any more threatening to our environment than the machinery found at big construction sites or the highway repaving projects that we see every summer? And how does it compare to the countless numbers of diesel engine tractor trailers rolling on our local roads? Gas well drilling sites are just temporary whereas those big rigs are rolling through our community all day, every day.

One problem area often mentioned by environmental sites is Boulder, Wyoming, where pollution from vehicles and equipment in the gas fields — along with dust, weather and geography — have helped raise ozone levels to those of big cities in the summertime. Does this mean that any area getting gas wells will suffer the same fate? The simple answer is, no. The scope of the operations there is on a scale that we are not likely to see. These are federal lands that were opened up to an army of drillers. They did not have individual property owners to deal with and they didn’t utilize directional drilling. Rather, they put in over 1,000 vertical wells using tight 40 acre spacing at a density of 64 wells per sq. mile (see photos at ww.voiceforthewild.org/blm/Jonah_field/). For us to see that level of activity, they’d have to pull every drill rig from the Barnett Shale, ship them up here, and drill non-stop for over a year. Adding to the problem there are other unique factors. Ozone needs sunlight to form, and environmental officials believe the ozone levels in Wyoming this past winter were exacerbated by heavy snow cover, which intensified the sunlight by reflecting it off the snow. In 2007, when the area had little snow cover, there were no elevated ozone readings. Also contributing to the situation are geographical factors of the area. Rare temperature inversions occur there (cold air is trapped close to the ground) and the surrounding mountains actually help hold the pollution in the valley.

Directional drilling in our area will help reduce the overall air pollution because operators can extract the same amount of gas from one horizontal well drill pad as they can from 16 vertical well drill pads. That’s 15 fewer drill pads, roads, and pits that need to be built by excavators, bulldozers, dumptrucks, etc..

- Evaporation - Some of the toxic chemicals used may also contribute to air pollution. Benzene and some other toxicants found in frac water are highly evaporative chemicals that do not mix well with water. Being lighter than water, they can sit on the water’s surface, evaporate, and be discharged to the air. I’m not sure that this is a bad thing. Not that we want chemicals in the air, but isn’t it better to have it in the air than the water? Isn’t this exactly what ‘scrubbers’ do when they treat soil and water from spill areas? They evaporate chemicals and discharge to the air. But, what is the quantity that we’re talking about here? And if it’s so hazardous, why aren’t the drill site workers who are around it every day falling over dead? The fact is acetone, benzene, toluene, and xylene all break down in the atmosphere within days. But, let’s put it in perspective.

In 2002, Lockheed Martin reportedly released 23,766 lbs. of known and suspected toxicants into the air and water while Hadco released 12,020 lbs. Add to that the emissions from all the other factories, gas stations, and home furnaces in the area and the numbers would be huge. Or again, let’s compare it to the benzene produced by the motor vehicles we drive. Based on average benzene emissions from auto tailpipes, a Wisconsin study estimated that, on a one mile section of Interstate 90/94, motor vehicles unleashed approx. 4,260 lbs. of benzene per year. That’s just a one mile section! The bottom line is, if your driving your car in traffic, you’re sniffing benzene. It seems inconceivable to me that evaporation from a few temporary waste water pits could equal or exceed those figures.

- Flaring - Before putting a new gas well online, the operator often needs to gets rid of excess frac water from the well. They do this by igniting a stream of gas direct from the wellhead, a practice known as flaring. This can be a long, noisy process that may be repeated for several days and for hours at a time. On the other hand, flaring can be avoided altogether if the operator has equipment that can separate the large amounts of water that initially comes out of a new well. Concerns have been raised about the chemicals released from flaring because, along with the methane there are other gases, frac fluid, etc. being burned.

I have not seen any reliable reports stating what the emissions of this activity are, probably because no two flaring situations are the same. The makeup of the gas, the well pressure, and the duration will always be different. I’ve seen claims that there are as many as 200 different components given off by flaring but they never mention in what amounts. Many critics fail to recognize the difference between gas well flaring, oil well flaring, and refinery flaring. Gas well flaring is a short-term, temporary activity, not something that continues on throughout the life of the well. But, lets compare it to another industry. The asphalt manufacturing process reportedly releases millions of pounds of the exact same toxins found in oil & gas production. When you think of the miles and miles of roads in the US, there has to be way more air pollution from asphalt than gas production. If you’re opposed to gas drilling are you also advocating that we stop paving our roads, parking lots and driveways?

* The DEC states that operators are supposed to notify surrounding property owners before flaring operations begin. Operators are required to obtain flaring permits if they are going to flare for over 72 hours straight. But the only way the DEC will find out about violations is if someone issues a complaint to them.

- Water Depletion - It reportedly takes 3 to 5 million gals of water (or more) to drill and complete a well. There’s a lot of concern over where this much water will come from and what the loss of that much water will do to our ecosystem. First of all, most people do not have a good idea of what a million gallons is, so let’s clarify. It’s approximately one and a half Olympic sized swimming pools. Or, if you’re more measurement minded, it’s the volume of one 51 foot cube. It is doubtful that drilling companies will try to drill water wells onsite to furnish their water needs. Time is money in this business and, even with a good water well, it would take them 2 to 3 weeks to fill their tanks. Their preferred source will be surface water (ponds, rivers, etc.) It should be obvious that extensive dewatering of our ponds, rivers and streams is not a good idea. But when water and flow levels are normal they should be able to tolerate some limited donations. And what harm would there be if large quantities were taken from the Susquehanna River when it’s near flood stage?

Drilling companies cannot just help themselves to the water. They must apply for permits with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), who will determine how much water they can obtain at any one time. It’s encouraging that the SRBC already caught and shut down a couple of Pennsylvania drilling operations for taking local water without the proper permits. The Pennsylvania DEP then held a meeting with 150 oil and gas industry leaders to make sure that they knew the rules. Hopefully, they will be just as diligent in NY. * I’ve heard that the SRBC only accepts permits twice a year. This is not very accommodating to drillers and may actually invite noncompliance.

Some drilling companies have already contacted local municipalities with requests to purchase water. The amount purchased will be controlled by our local water officials, who will determine how much can be spared. It deserves mention that the drilling companies are paying a hefty price per gallon for this water and, if handled properly, the revenue from these sales will be a welcomed addition to our cash-strapped local systems. The need for water may present money making opportunities for others in our area as well.

The shortage of water is an issue that many drilling companies have already faced in some gas-rich but water-starved areas of the country. And they’ve come up with some solutions. Most drillers now recycle as much water as possible. In addition, they’ve combined efforts with the local communities to build retention ponds that are filled a little at a time when the community water supplies can afford to ‘donate’. They’ve also channeled unwanted runoff from heavy rains into the ponds, thereby reducing the need to access community water supplies. It seems to me that, if increased drilling is coming our way, it would make a lot of sense to build some of these retaining ponds. We could also have ‘water sales’ every time the Susquehanna is ready to overflow it’s banks. One way or the other, this is another area where our lease can be worded to prohibit taking water directly from our properties.

Catastrophic Accident Possibility

- Blowouts - Occasionally, a large release of gas may accidentally occur at gas well sites. This is known as a blowout and it can happen when unusually high-pressured pockets of gas are encountered during drilling. Normally, the weight of the drilling muds and mechanical devices known as ‘blowout preventers’ keep these surges in check. But, on rare occasions the pressure is so great that it overcomes all resistance and blasts out through the top (or side) of the well casing. Of concern is how quickly the methane dissipates and whether or not it contains large quantities of hydrogen sulfide (sour gas). Evacuation of surrounding homes could be required, much the same as if a gas main were to rupture somewhere. Depending on the pressure involved, blowouts may take up to several days to be brought under control. There have been a couple of very rare cases where sour gas wells were lethal to those very near the well site. It’s believed that the gas in the Marcellus Shale is of high quality (sweet gas) and does not contain large amounts of hydrogen sulfide.

- Explosions - In extreme cases, the friction caused by the rushing gas (from a blowout) can heat up the well casing to the point that the gas ignites resulting in an explosion. The resulting fire makes working conditions more difficult and it can take a couple of weeks to bring the situation under control. Again, evacuation of surrounding homes could be required especially if the threat of wildfires exists during the dry season.

Blowouts are certainly very serious situations but they rarely happen and getting gas out of shale rock like the Marcellus is not that easy. Typically, shale needs to be prodded and poked (frac’ed) in order to obtain enough pressure to make even an average producing well.

But this does bring up the question of preparedness. In heavy drilling states like Texas, they have ‘Well Control Companies’ who specialize in taking care of emergency situations related to well drilling. Do we have any companies like that in NY? If so, how far away are they? And could our local emergency crews handle situations like this? Is evacuation education & planning a regular part of training for our emergency crews? Should we have at least one specialist in the area?

SUMMARY

I believe that I’ve shed light on the main things that the industry would prefer you didn’t know. I believe that I’ve also put into perspective some of the claims of the critics. Keep in mind I’ve listed nearly everything that can go wrong with a gas well and it may be intimidating. But again, put it in perspective. If you listed everything that can go wrong with the Lockheed Martin plant, or the Exxon Mobil tank farm, or even local gas stations it would be intimidating as well. The fact is these things don’t happen frequently and the numbers say that well drilling isn’t any worse than many other industries that we take for granted. In fact, it’s far better than some.

I truly believe that environmentalists serve an important purpose in our society. They are constantly monitoring the world around us and making us aware of potential dangers. But all too many of their dire warnings include phrases such as, “might lead to”, or, “could possibly result in”, or, “at risk of”. This might be OK if we are venturing into a new arena, but the truth is, we have enough history on well drilling to determine what the risks really are.

We live with risk every day. Try doing an internet search for gas trucks and pipelines exploding, or tankers leaking, or factory farm pollution and see how many ‘hits’ you get. You know that LP canister on your gas grill? Check out how many of those claim lives and destroy property. One study shows your risk of becoming ill and dying from benzene (all sources) is only half that of being struck by lightning; that you’re approximately 10 times as likely to die from electrocution, 55 times more likely to die by drowning, and 481 times as likely to die by an accident in the home. The numbers say that you’re 589 times more likely to die in a car accident and 13,125 times more likely to die if you smoke cigarettes. Death from gas well causes doesn’t even register on the scale.

What this all boils down to is potential vs. probability vs. need - or more simply, risk vs. need. Whenever we hear of someone dying in an auto accident, we’re reminded that the potential for our own death is there every time we drive. But we weigh the probability vs. the need to travel and we continue driving. By getting behind the wheel, we’re saying that over 43,000 deaths per year by auto accident is an acceptable risk vs. the need to drive. By comparison, there is a much smaller number of deaths and contaminations per year attributed to gas wells yet, many say it’s not worth the risk. If you argue that the risk associated with drilling gas wells is not acceptable, then you are essentially saying that we don’t need the natural gas. Or, maybe you’re just saying ‘not in my back yard’. The fact is, we do need the gas. And we have no choice but to drill these wells where the gas is located.

When I look at the numbers, I’m not convinced that the risks outweigh even the financial needs. This area of ours has been economically depressed for some time. And it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of hope for the future. I don’t know how some of our local farmers have managed to hang on for all these years. And many others who were once gainfully employed by local factories have lost those jobs and are now ‘just getting by’. With middle-class incomes disappearing, fuel prices skyrocketing, and the economy in recession, unfunded mandates are forcing our cash-strapped local governments to raise property taxes and cut services. What’s the outcome of this downward spiral? I consider these issues just as much a part my environment as the ‘green’ issues. Could gas well activity help change this? Absolutely.

It’s estimated that the financial benefits of the Barnett Shale play has pumped 5 to 6 billion dollars back into the local Dallas-Fort Worth economy and will continue to do so for some time. In addition, there have been generous grants to schools and community organizations by the oil and gas companies. I’m not saying that I think it’s OK for these companies to pollute our environment as long as we get some money for it. I’m saying that, in terms of accidents and pollution, I don’t see the numbers that make them any worse than other big businesses. And in light of the potential benefits to our local economy, I think the risks are worth it on a financial basis alone. And those risks can be reduced by using improved technology, equipment, and procedures.

But there’s more. To address this issue fully, we need to look at the big picture. What kind of risk is our nation taking by not continuing to develop our oil and natural gas resources? Where will our oil and gas come from? The economic security of this country is of prime importance to all of us. And having ample, ready supplies of natural gas may play a key role in keeping this country afloat in the near future. What I’m talking about is an energy crisis situation known as ‘Peak Oil’.

Many industry experts say that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but rather, a matter of ‘when’ this global crude oil crisis takes place. Emerging countries like China and India are rapidly increasing their oil consumption and they will continually be fighting for a larger and larger share of the available global oil supply. The true ‘giant’ oil fields that provide much of today’s oil are mostly mature fields with declining production. These experts claim that newer, smaller oil fields are not coming on line fast enough, and their production will not be large enough to even offset the declines of the existing fields, let alone make up for the increase in demand. At some point, they warn, supplies will fall far short of demand. Basic economics says that, when demand greatly exceeds a limited supply, prices skyrocket and the product goes to the highest bidder.

If you haven’t read about how ‘Peak Oil’ could affect our nation, you owe it to yourself to do so. For an enlightening, but worst-case scenario, try reading the remarks of James Howard Kunstler (http://www.kunstler....spch_hudson.htm). Whether or not you agree with the author’s bleak portrait of the future, I think we need to at least listen to these arguments and ask ourselves, “Is it possible?” And, if so, shouldn’t this risk play a part in determining the needs associated with natural gas drilling”?

If “Peak Oil’ becomes a reality to the extent some think it could, the negative impact on our economy and our way of life could be devastating. Cheap gasoline would be a thing of the past, with many of us unable to afford to drive our vehicles. The cost of any product that’s shipped or trucked (that’s just about everything) would skyrocket, causing sales to plummet and companies to go out of business. Heating oil would be unaffordable, so large numbers of people would go back to using wood and coal stoves, which are about 50 times more polluting than gas furnaces. Huge numbers of trees would be chopped down to burn. Even garbage service would be unaffordable, so people would turn to burning and illegal dumping to get rid of their trash. If you believe these experts, the environmental effects of not drilling could be devastating.

No one knows for sure if ‘Peak Oil’ will ever happen. There are those who think that it’s just a big scare story or even something dreamed up by the oil and gas companies to help open doors to more drilling. But the fact is, many of the warning signs are there and ‘Peak Oil’ happened once before, although just on a national level. Only 50 years ago people laughed at the suggestion that the US could not supply all of it’s own oil needs. But they were wrong. At least back then, we had a safety valve and could purchase foreign oil. Now we find ourselves heavily dependent on foreign oil and ever closer to supply problems. This time we have no back up plan and many think our national ‘leaders’ are failing us by not standing up and addressing this situation now.

If ‘Peak Oil’ comes about, this nation will need all types of energy sources available. The emerging renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc.) must play a big part, but they will take decades to develop and won’t even come close to providing all of this nation’s energy needs. We’ll need every bit of domestic oil and natural gas we can get our hands on. Having a ‘not in my back yard’ attitude is not going to get it done. If there’s even a slight chance of our oil supply being greatly diminished by uncontrollable foreign events, then I’m of the opinion that the need outweighs the risks and we should pursue drilling.

That said, I would like to see the EPA, the DEC, and local officials learn from previous problems and become better prepared to handle increased drilling activity and become more proactive to preventwould like to see pressure put on our state legislators to enact legislation requiringcan be employed while still maintaining efficiency and profitability. Implementing better safeguards and regulations can be done and has already been done in New Mexico and Colorado. There are already signs that certain local legislators and environmental groups are not going to let what happened in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico happen in New York. These are highly controversial issues and you can bet that they will be monitored closely.

Many feel that, if there’s gas below us, the oil & gas companies will be coming to get it one way or another, especially if this nation faces some type of energy crisis. Jill Morrison, of the Powder River Basin Resource Council (Wyoming), warns of unseen problems but states, “ .. this is the richest industry in the world, and they’re going to come whether you want them or not.” Indeed, many of our neighbors have already signed leases, increasing the chance that oil & gas companies will be here sooner or later. Signing a good lease is one way we landowners can protect ourselves. Our goal is to develop a lease with the necessary environmental provisions, yet still remain marketable to the oil & gas companies. But there must be a balance of protection vs. risk vs. need.

Kevin Lewis

The Friendsville Group




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users