Fracking Panel Candidate Misses Mark

Here’s a letter I wrote that ran in the Indiana Gazette today, giving perspective to Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania.

To the Editor,

After reading the news article, “Marcellus expert advises caution as drilling expands” I found it most unfortunate that Dr. Bishop, candidate to serve on the EPA’s panel on hydraulic fracturing, identifies areas of concerns without noting how they are already being addressed.

In terms of plugging wells, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requires all wells be registered with bonds, which ensures drillers pay for the cost of plugging each well. Natural gas drillers must comply with eight federal and eleven state acts and laws, and are subject to frequent inspections by the 193 DEP drill site inspectors.

Second, the process of hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 60 years and never led to groundwater contamination. Further, Pennsylvania requires a list of all chemicals used in fracking be available on the DEP’s website. And an initial study by PA DEP found that emission levels at drilling sites did not compose a concern to the health of nearby residents. One area of concern is methane migration, which occurs when naturally existing methane pockets are disturbed by drilling. The sensationalist and misleading film Gasland shows tap water being lit on fire, but methane in water wells has long been an issue, and is being addressed by new, more stringent state regulations and improvements to drinking wells.

And the “social costs” of drilling are being more than paid for. The gas industry is investing in local communities and rebuilding local infrastructure, putting millions into repairing and even improving local roads. As a result, a Penn State survey showed that support for drilling is highest in places where drilling is actually occurring.