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Natural Gas Drilling Story

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Trout Magazine story on natural gas drilling

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Transcript of "Natural Gas Drilling Story"

  1. 1. For navigation instructions please click here Zoom In Zoom Out Next Page Contents Search Issue T R O U T U N L I M I T E D • W W W. T U. O R G • W I N T E R 2 0 0 9 _________________ How to Navigate the Magazine At the top and bottom of each page of the magazine you will see a navigation bar with 7 buttons. The buttons have these functions : Felt-Soled Waders and Invasives Previous Page : Clicking on the Previous Page will turn your pages backward. Next Page : Clicking on the Next Page will turn your pages forward. Contents : Clicking on the Contents wherever you happen to be in the magazine will take you back to the table of contents page. Apache Trout Zoom In : Clicking on Zoom In at the top will zoom in to the top of that page. Clicking on Zoom In at the bottom will zoom in to the bottom of that page. Zoom Out : Clicking on Zoom Out will take you from a zoomed single page to the double page view. Drilling the Front Cover : Clicking on the Cover will take you to the cover. $3 US / $4 CANADA Search Issue : Clicking on Search will allow you to do a full search of the Marcellus Shale magazine. While you can use the standard Acrobat Reader tools for navigation, we recommend that you use the Qmags tools described above. They PRINTED IN THE U.S.A provide you with all basic reader requirements. For navigation instructions please click here Zoom In Zoom Out Next Page Contents Search Issue
  2. 2. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F Fractured Landscape: The Appa 32 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  3. 3. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F Last July, as concern grew over the prospect that thousands of natural gas wells could appear in the upland forests and farms of Appalachia, Pennsylvania officials sought to reassure the public and the gas industry alike. The news media had reported that the wells could potentially tap millions of gallons of water from streams, produce toxic waste water and disturb thousands of undeveloped areas in the Marcellus shale—a 600-mile sheet of sedimentary rock spanning Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Maryland and Ohio. In an effort to alleviate fears on both sides of the issue, officials publicly emphasized that not only did the gas rush mean a huge economic opportunity for the state due Pennsylvania’s abundant water resources, gas companies were “all rising to the challenge” of drilling responsibly. But by the time those assurances were made, four gas companies had already been N L Y L E ] [ B Y M O R G A caught withdrawing water without permission from Pennsylvania trout streams. Chief Oil & Gas had removed 3.5 million gallons from Mud Run, a tributary of Larry’s Creek, and Range Resources had taken 2.2 million gallons out of Big Sandy Run. Other streams affected by achians’ Energy Development Rush withdrawals were Meshoppen, Pine and Sugar Creeks. The companies paid $1.7 million to settle the violations. But permits for hundreds of additional wells have already been filed, including many near cold, pristine streams—streams that may be adversely affected not only by developers tapping water for the drilling process, but also by the contaminants and runoff that natural gas drilling can produce. 33 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  4. 4. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F 34 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  5. 5. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F Last July, as concern grew over the prospect that thousands of Las natural gas wells could appear in the upland forests and farms of Appalachia, Pennsylvania officials sought to reassure the public t July, as concern grew over the prospect that and the gas industry alike. thousands of natural reported that theappear in the upland The news media had gas wells could wells could potentially tap millions of gallons of water from streams, produce toxic forests and farms of Appalachia, Pennsylvania officials waste water and disturb thousands of undeveloped areas in the sought to reassure the public and the gas industry alike. Marcellus shale—a 600-mile sheet of sedimentary rock spanning The news media had reported that the wells could potentially tap millions Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Maryland and Ohio. of In an effort to alleviate fears produce toxic waste water and disturb gallons of water from streams, on both sides of the issue, officials thousandsemphasized that not only Marcellusgas rush600-milehuge publicly of undeveloped areas in the did the shale—a mean a sheet of sedimentary rock spanning Pennsylvania, West Virginia, abundant economic opportunity for the state due Pennsylvania’s New York, Maryland and Ohio. companies were “all rising to the challenge” water resources, gas ofIn an effort to alleviate fears on both sides of the issue, officials publicly drilling responsibly. emphasized that not only did the gas rush mean a huge economic opportunity But by the time those assurances were made, four gas companies for the state due to Pennsylvania’s abundant water resources, gas companies had already been caught withdrawing water without permission were “all rising to the challenge” of drilling responsibly. from Pennsylvania trout streams. Chief Oil & Gas had removed 3.5 But by the time those assurances were made, four gas companies had already million gallons from Mud Run, a tributary of Larry’s Creek, and been caught withdrawing water without permission from Pennsylvania trout Range Resources had taken 2.2 million gallons out of Big Sandy streams. Chief Oil & Gas had removed 3.5 million gallons from Mud Run, Run. Other streams affected by withdrawals were Meshoppen, a tributary of Larry’s Creek, and Range Resources had taken 2.2 million gallons outSugar Sandy Run. Other streams affected by withdrawals were Pine and of Big Creeks. The companies paid $1.7 million to settle the violations. But Meshoppen, Pine and Sugar creeks. permits for hundreds ofmillion to settle thehave already been filed, The companies paid $1.7 additional wells violations. But permits for hundreds ofmany near cold, pristinebeen filed, including many may including additional wells have already streams—streams that near cold, pristine streams—streams that may be adversely affected not for the be adversely affected not only by developers tapping water only by developers tapping water also bydrilling process, but also by runoff that drilling process, but for the the contaminants and the contami- natural gas drilling can produce. nants and runoff that natural gas drilling can produce. 35 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  6. 6. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F “A runaway freight train” inconsistent environmental laws and in Pennsylvania is absolutely enforced The rush to drill for natural gas in the underfunded regulatory agencies. and followed, which is highly unlikely, Marcellus shale formation—encouraged, “Right now the Marcellus shale the damage to our streams and forests in part, by the government agencies drilling rush is coming at us like will be considerable.” responsible for protecting the environ- a runaway freight train. There is ment and made possible by hundreds of no stopping it. All we can hope to “It makes your head spin” millions of dollars in leases with rural do is make sure the environmental landowners—poses a vast challenge to A well costs as much as $3 million in damage is kept to a minimum,” says the ecosystems, and especially trout the Marcellus shale region, and until Ken Undercoffer, president of TU’s habitats, of the Appalachian Plateau. recently no one bothered drilling for the Pennsylvania Council. Trout Unlimited volunteers and staff estimated 50 trillion cubic feet of natural “My biggest concern is the need for in the region have made the Marcellus gas because it was too expensive to do massive water withdrawals to fracture gas rush a top conservation priority. so. But escalating gas prices have led to the wells, and where this water is going From the grassroots to the national massive investment in the region. to be treated afterward to render it offices, TU is working to make sure the Pennsylvania alone issued 493 harmless to the environment. Even drilling is done responsibly, in spite of well permits as of mid-September if every environmental law that exists “Even if every environmental law that exists is absolutely enforced and followed, which is highly unlikely, the damage to our streams and forests will be considerable.” 36 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  7. 7. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F NAT GILLESPIE Escalating gas prices have attracted investors in droves to the estimated 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Marcellus shale region. 37 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  8. 8. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F For many local landowners, offers from the gas companies too good to refuse. are simply Tenders of as much as $2,500 an acre, and sometimes more, are common. 38 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  9. 9. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F 2008, with more expected to fol- low. Dominion, an energy company from Richmond, Va., announced in September it holds leases on as much as 800,000 acres in the Appalachian region. Range Resources of Fort Worth, Texas announced in July it had locked up 1.4 million acres in northern West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania, northeastern Pennsylvania and south- Well is turned ern New York. Atlas Energy Resources horizontal of Moon Township, Pa. controls more Marcellus Shale than half a million acres. And these Hydrofrac Zone companies are only the tip of the Marcellus-drilling iceberg. Hydro-fracturing involves injecting over a mil- For many local landowners, offers lion gallons of water, chemicals and sand at from the gas companies are simply too high pressure to crack the rock and release gas good to refuse. Tenders of as much as into the well. $2,500 an acre, and sometimes more, buying power. To help facilitate title are common, as is a share of the profits searches, a gas company asked for an on the production of the gas well itself, office in the Clearfield, Pa. county which could bring in thousands of courthouse. In September, the New additional dollars per month. York attorney general’s office began “When a guy comes along and offers investigating dozens of complaints of you potentially $5 million, it makes misleading or deceptive tactics by gas your head spin,” says Fred Dorgler of company “land men.” Floral Park, N.Y., a member of a local Says Dorgler, “whether we lease or field and stream club. The club owns don’t lease, we’ll never be the same.” 3,200 acres in the Catskills coveted by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation of Charleston, W.V. In September, club Drilling in irreplaceable members struggled over whether or not trout habitat to lease their hunting lands. To get gas out of the Marcellus shale, “Some of these people are in their developers use a technique known 80s and 90s and grew up scratching out as hydro-fracturing, which means a living. They now stand the chance of drilling down thousands of feet to the getting a substantial amount of money shale and then blasting the shale with late in their lives,” says Al Conklin, a water—anywhere from 3 million to 9 retired school teacher from Liverpool, million gallons per well. Even more N.Y. and member of the Iroquois water is used if the well needs to be Chapter of TU. re-fractured. Like others, Conklin’s father faces Trucking in water to meet the the potential of leasing 80 acres near demand is expensive. It’s far cheaper the West Branch of the Delaware River to run a few hundred feet of fire to natural gas developers. “My father has hose to a nearby stream. And because looked at it as somewhat of a godsend. drilling tends to be concentrated in But on the other hand, you don’t want undeveloped highlands, those nearby something that’s going to spoil your streams are often irreplaceable trout drinking water.” habitat. Natural gas development in the “Where they’re drilling in the Marcellus region has reached dizzying Marcellus is up in the hills—the proportions. Landowners have started Appalachian Mountains,” says to bargain in groups to increase their 39 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  10. 10. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F and regulations don’t adequately pro- Mike Brownell, chief of the Water any amount of water for Marcellus tect streams from natural gas drilling Resource Management Division shale drilling. Prior to permitting water withdrawals. The New York State of the Susquehanna River Basin any withdrawal, the commission’s Water Resources Institute at Cornell Commission. “They’re not drilling staff conducts field studies on the University also found that, due to down in the valleys.” stream in question, counting fish and the likelihood that many of the wells Of the 33 applications for gas well invertebrates and measuring flows. will be located in the upper reaches water withdrawals that came before But not every trout stream is fortunate of watersheds, “there is legitimate the SRBC at its quarterly meeting enough to be under the jurisdiction concern regarding the over exploita- in September 2008, 15 requested of the SRBC. tion of water, even if this impact is the right to draw water from streams Regulations for withdrawing water temporary.” classified as coldwater fisheries or vary widely from state to state. West high-quality coldwater fisheries. Virginia lacks statewide rules govern- Several others were put-and-take ing the withdrawal of water from sen- Threats to water quality trout streams. sitive trout habitat, says Larry Harris, The water used in hydro-fracturing After the unauthorized withdrawals TU’s National Leadership Council contains chemicals the industry is by Range Resources, Chief Oil & Gas secretary from Morgantown, W.V. who not required to disclose, but which and others last spring, the SRBC tight- also serves on a six-member advisory reputable organizations describe as ened its rules. Before, permits were council to the state’s Department of containing such highly toxic substances only needed when a certain volume Environmental Protection. as arsenic, hydrogen sulfide, mercury of water was consumed, but now the In New York, a TU report released and volatile organic compounds SRBC requires a permit to withdraw in September found that current laws 40 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  11. 11. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F Of the 33 applications for gas well water withdrawals that came before the SRBC, 15 requested the right to draw water from streams classified as coldwater fisheries or high-quality coldwater fisheries. 41 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  12. 12. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F Due to the magnitude of the Marcellus shale development, most might think that federal regulations would help address concerns over water withdrawals and water quality. Unfortunately, the 2005 Energy Policy Act specifically exempted the oil and gas industry from the provisions of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act that apply to pollution caused by waste water as well as runoff. “It’s critical that the natural gas industry’s exemption from federal clean water laws be repealed,” says Sara Tucker, TU’s director of government affairs. “It’s an unfortunate exemption and it never should have happened.” Tucker says that for TU, the issue of balancing gas production on public and private land with fish and wildlife protection will be “one of our top priorities of 2009.” New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has expressed support for closing the loopholes. Protecting the resource “Even if a state has the best laws in place and has the staff to ensure these laws are complied with, if these wells are developed in the numbers that are being talked about, the cumulative impact is going to be heavy,” says Elizabeth Maclin, TU’s vice president for eastern conservation. “We are not opposed to drilling in the Marcellus, but people and rivers—and our fishing and hunting spots—have got to be protected.” Maclin says that TU is undertaking a campaign to bring its members and other sportsmen and women together to keep drilling out of public lands that are including benzene, toluene and nated water. Those that can are close vital for fish and wildlife. They are also xylene. The natural gas industry says to or already at capacity. advocating for tighter state laws and regu- the chemicals are kept out of water An additional worry is run-off. lations requiring setbacks from streams, supplies during drilling, and that The wells sit on pads, typically five water withdrawal standards, water treat- waste water is trucked away and ren- acres in size, linked by pipelines and ment requirements, strict enforcement dered harmless at treatment plants. accessed by new unpaved roads—all and steep penalties for non-compliance, But chemicals have shown up in the of which can cause increased sedi- and are identifying and working with groundwater in natural gas drilling mentation in nearby streams that, responsible energy companies to develop sites in the western United States, and in turn, raises water temperatures, a set of best practices. in reality there are very few treatment alters streambeds, impairs spawning plants that can handle the contami- and smothers aquatic insects. Continued on page 59 42 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F
  13. 13. A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F Appalachian Energy measure of protection, at least on Continued from page 42 operations they can see. But with so You can help… Locally, TU members and chapters much drilling occurring in so many are working to ensure that coldwa- places, it will be difficult to make TU is working at the state and ter habitats are protected from gas sure every driller honors the terms of national level to help assure drilling. Last fall, the West Virginia his or her permit and does not harm that valuable trout resources Council reached out to representa- streams, especially since much of the in the Northeast are protected tives of the gas industry to meet and exploration and extraction will take from the Marcellus shale discuss ways of extracting natural gas place in undeveloped areas. development. Whether it’s without damaging the headwaters of “Some of the most intense interest working to educate people trout streams. in Marcellus shale exploration and as to the potential impacts In Pennsylvania, the state council extraction is taking place in the least of the development on trout, is considering proposing a tax on gas developed areas of this state,” says Tim sharing your opinion with company profits to be used to hire Ziegler of the Center for Dirt and elected officials or monitoring more inspectors to monitor drilling Gravel Road Studies at Pennsylvania energy exploration at the local operations. Pennsylvania has just 36 State University, an organization level, you can play a vital role. water quality specialists and drilling originally founded 11 years ago by Go to tu.org/marcellus, pro- ____________ inspectors, and despite the clear need TU’s Pennsylvania Council. “These vide us with your email and for more, the commonwealth froze areas contain the most miles of telephone number and we’ll additional hiring due to a budget healthy trout streams—many of them contact you to discuss how you crunch. headwater brook trout streams—and can protect your home waters Local TU members will undoubt- that does not bode well for our state from drilling. edly keep an eye on drilling operations fish or the anglers who enjoy pursu- near their home waters, offering a ing them.” ___________ 59 TROUT WINTER 2009 A BMaGS Previous Page Contents Zoom In Zoom Out Front Cover Search Issue Next Page E F

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