Video: Natural gas blow back in Bradford county

Frac fluid spills from well for 20 hours at Chesapeake site near Canton. Fluid flowed into a creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna. For more details, see

http://www.wnep.com/wnep-brad-leroy-gas-drillingemergency20110420,0,1884646.story

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Letter to the Editor, Aug. 29, 2010

A Letter to the Editor, Towanda, PA:

Loss of one resource for another?

EDITOR: Being a licensed Pennsylvania water well driller for the past 40 years and being born and raised in the Towanda area, I feel I must respond to the stories I keep reading about the gas drilling companies shifting the blame of water well problems to poor well construction and local water well drilling.

One such story was in this week’s Sunday Review (Aug. 22, 2010). And before I begin I want it known that any subsequent mention of the Chesapeake company shows no hostility towards them or their representatives. With mutual respect and dual acknowledgement of experience, I do believe that natural gas extraction and water well drilling can harmoniously coincide in Northeast Pennsylvania.

First of all, if a water well is not constructed properly, there are problems from day one and not 10, 20 even 50 years later.

Referring to Sunday’s article, Brian Grove of Chesapeake stated he does not believe, the facts, implicate its drilling operations is causing the water issues at hand. We have not spoken with any of the Paradise Road residents, but, the fact is, we have recently received many calls from local homeowners regarding disturbances in their water wells that began after nearby gas drilling activity had started. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the time line coincidence and figure out gas drilling activity probably has caused these water well issues.

Again referring to the Sunday article, Mr. Grove wrote, affected water wells are drilled into shallow aquifers. Most of our calls pertain to rock wells, but our answer to his comment is, this is Pennsylvania, not Texas! In many local areas, residents depend on the shallow aquifers because the deeper water is salty, or sulfury, and not compatible to human consumption. What a shame to disturb their only potable water resource.

And Mr. Grove’s insinuation that poor water well construction could be causing current water well issues is a direct disrespect to me, my father before me, and other local reputable water well drillers. Speaking for myself and my father’s memory, we have drilled thousands of water wells during decades of business in Northeast Pennsylvania. Our continued good reputation is testimony that we do successfully construct quality water wells. I invite Mr. Grove to call me to discuss well construction but not to come into my hometown and discredit my work. Mr. Grove stated that Chesapeake has offered to drill replacement water wells of “superior construction standards.” A recent telephone conversation with Chesapeake representative Larry Wooten makes me question what he means by “superior construction standards?”

Mr. Wooten called in regards to me drilling a replacement well on my neighbor’s property. He quizzed me about my practices and prices. When I told him I use a steel drive shoe on the bottom of my casing to seal contaminates from entering the well, he told me they never use them and thought this contaminant seal was an unnecessary added cost. Again, this is Pennsylvania, not Texas. I believe embedding a steel drive shoe into rock formations is necessary to superiorly construct a Pennsylvania water well.

To end, we believe Northeast Pennsylvania is both blessed and cursed by the Marcellus Shale mineral deposits which lie underneath our homes. The excitement of gas lease funding and large drilling rigs coming to our area has been replaced by damaged roads; delayed travel and traffic snarls; streams sucked dry by convoys of trucks, driven by persons foreign to our area, who may skillfully drive Texas flatlands but have difficulty maneuvering our hilly serpentine roadways; residential sweet water invaded by methane that is blowing off well caps; local families displaced by gas workers; and other changes affecting our work and lifestyles.

Unlike cautious New York state, we think Pennsylvania jumped the gun and has allowed natural gas drilling companies into our area too soon, in too large of numbers, and with too few regulations in place. The saying, you don’t know the worth of the water until the well is dry, sounds like a reality to us. Our drinking water is being affected and millions of gallons of water are being extracted from our streams, rivers and municipal wells with insufficient recharge. Well, Sen. Casey, we agree it is high time to protect our water, our people and our future.

Thomas and Loraine Cummings Water Well Drilling

Towanda

http://thedailyreview.com/opinion/letters/letter-to-the-editor-aug-29-2010-1.980232

Under-used Drilling Methods are Possible-Greener Fracking?

http://www.propublica.org/feature/underused-drilling-practices-could-avoid-pollution-1214

A good read from Propublica. The discussion of safer and “greener” drilling chemicals is on the rise and so is research that shows these other methods do work. And of course some parts of the industry will fight this tooth and nail while others have embraced it and some are already putting it into action. There is an intersting quote at the end of this long article.

“No matter what we do we are capitalists here in the U.S.,” said Richard Haut, the Houston Advanced Research Center project director. “We do have to look for a balance between environmental issues and development.”

of course capitalism is playing it’s role…and we are playing ours as stewards of our resources, water and homes.

Gas Companies say one thing but think another…

http://www.propublica.org/feature/does-chesapeakes-no-drilling-pledge-do-enough-to-protect-nycs-watershed-110

Another well written article from Propublica.  Just seems to reinforce the old “you just can’t trust ’em!”.

NYC watershed may yet be saved

Here’s an article from the New York Times with some good/interesting information about not drilling for gas in the NYC watershed.
By JAD MOUAWAD and CLIFFORD KRAUSS

Published: October 27, 2009

Bowing to intense public pressure, the Chesapeake Energy Corporation says it will not drill for natural gas within the upstate New York watershed, an environmentally sensitive region that supplies unfiltered water to nine million people.

The reversal seems to signal a more conciliatory tone from the gas industry, which is facing mounting opposition in New York to its drilling practices. The decision also increases the pressure on state regulators to reverse their decision to allow drilling within the watershed.

“We are not going to develop those leases, and we are not taking any more leases, and I don’t think anybody else in the industry would dare to acquire leases in the New York City watershed,”. Aubrey K. McClendon, the chief executive officer at Chesapeake Energy, said in an interview on Monday in Fort Worth. “Why go through the brain damage of that, when we have so many other opportunities?”

He spoke on the eve of the first scheduled hearing on proposed state rules governing the drilling, on Wednesday in Loch Sheldrake in Sullivan County.

Chesapeake, one of the nation’s biggest gas producers, is the largest leaseholder in the Marcellus Shale, a subterranean layer of shale rock that runs from New York to Tennessee. The shale is believed to hold substantial natural gas reserves.

But extracting gas from shale relies on a method called hydraulic fracturing that has stirred broad concerns. Water, laced with chemicals, is blasted down gas wells at high pressure to break the rock and allow gas to flow out more easily. The technology has vigorously expanded in recent years, allowing for enormous growth in the nation’s natural gas reserves.

But the concerns include the use of chemicals, the disposal of wastewater and the danger of leaks and spills into groundwater and deep aquifers. There also has been a string of explosions from Wyoming to Pennsylvania.

Under energy legislation passed in 2005, the industry won an exemption from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Chesapeake acquired 5,000 acres in the watershed when it bought Columbia Natural Resources a few years ago, and it is currently the only leaseholder in the area.

Over all, Mr. McClendon said, the company’s holdings in the watershed are “a drop in the bucket” compared with the Marcellus field’s potential. He suggested that Chesapeake had more to lose by drilling there than by forgoing it, even though he contended such drilling would do no harm.

“How could any one well be so profitable that it would be worth damaging the New York City water system?” he said.

But Chesapeake and other companies are still expected to drill for gas in areas of the state outside the watershed.

State officials have been eager to embrace the drilling because of its potential economic benefits, especially in the current downturn. This month, the state’s environmental agency said it would allow companies to drill throughout the state, imposing few specific limits on operations.

The proposed regulations, which were requested last year by Gov. David A. Paterson, do not ban drilling in the watershed, as many New York City officials and environmental advocates had urged, but would require buffer zones around reservoirs and aqueducts.

Gas industry representatives say the rules, if enacted, will be among the most restrictive in the country. Opponents say they would be inadequate to prevent contamination.

The New York watershed is an area of about one million acres, representing 4 percent of the state’s total surface. Thanks to gravity, water from the region’s rivers and streams flows to six reservoirs in the Catskills, and then, through a series of aqueducts and tunnels, to the taps of New Yorkers. This system provides unfiltered drinking water for half the state’s population, including 8.2 million people in New York City and about one million people in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties.

Some New York City politicians welcomed Chesapeake’s decision and said they hoped it would have a broader impact. “To proceed with drilling doesn’t make any business sense and doesn’t make environmental sense, and I think Chesapeake understands this, and I am happy they have come to that decision,” said James F. Gennaro, chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection. “If only we could get the state government to come to the same realization. It is strangely ironic.”

Chesapeake’s announcement was also praised by environmental advocates. They said the company’s position should encourage the state to reverse its decision and impose an outright drilling ban throughout the watershed.

“When the industry says it will not drill in the watershed, it sends a strong message to state regulators that drilling there is inappropriate,” said James L. Simpson, an attorney at Riverkeeper, an environmental group.

Hydraulic fracturing pumps huge volumes of water laced with chemicals like benzene into the shale to break it and release the natural gas. The process has been linked to contamination of water wells and the death of livestock exposed to potassium chloride, one of the chemicals used.

State environmental regulators have said they saw no “realistic threat” to water quality that would warrant a drilling ban in the two watersheds in the Catskills region. Their review noted that the city controlled a large amount of the land surrounding the reservoirs and could deny permission to drill in those areas.

In addition to the forum on Wednesday, hearings on the state’s proposed regulations are scheduled Nov. 10 in New York City, Nov. 12 in Broome County and Nov. 18 in Steuben County.

Chesapeake said it had started to publicize the chemical components of the fluids it uses during drilling, down to the percentages for each chemical used since last year, acknowledging criticism that companies had not been transparent enough. “The industry is moving quickly to complete disclosure,” Mr. McClendon said.