Okay boys and girls, it’s time for a little more "energy-based geology" courtesy of your Aunt Toby. You didn’t know that I know anything about geology, did you? Well, I had better since I live smack dab in an area which given the amount of natural gas formation there is (see map), has the potential to make the BP oil volcano pollution look like small change.
This is the Marcellus Shale formation (actually, there is another, even larger shale formation that all of the energy companies are looking at that lies underneath the Marcellus, called, interestingly enough, the Utica Shale formation, but that is a discussion for another time). Energy companies have been sending their "land men" all over Pennsylvania and Upstate New York to get landowners to sign land leases which will allow them to drill for natural gas.
Natural gas. What could be more patriotic? Our own supply of energy (cue “Hail to the Chief”). There are so many problems with this that it is only through frankly people’s poverty, lack of information, the energy companies’ "hit em fast before they get smart," local government’s suffering for tax revenues, and general greed that things have gotten going at all.
And start they have. The amount of infighting, "you got more than I did," "don’t tell me what to do with my land," "I’ve got flames coming out of my sink taps," and general hair pulling has been truly mindboggling here in New York. But I’m glad we are into fighting because at least there has been a slowdown in terms of what is happening in New York State, especially with New York City’s DEP (the water quality people who bought upstate New York the Cannonsville and other reservoirs) screaming bloody murder to protect New York City’s water and now the Delaware Watershed folks putting a hold on any drilling due to fears of water pollution from the use of "fracking fluid," a water-based liquid comprised of 80 different chemicals, many of which have been found to cause neurological damage and cancer.
But that has not helped Pennsylvania, which is two years into the natural gas drilling "boom," with all of its attending issues and problems:
Worker deaths from explosions and safety problems.
Major watershed pollution with a large fish kill at Dunkard Creek between PA and WV.
200,000 gallons of fracking fluid have been found to have been dumped in the Allegheny National Forest.
Road Damage from trucks and equipment: Marcellus Drilling Road Damage
Social problems associated with companies bringing drilling crews into rural areas (so much for all the job creation that this supposedly provides): Social Ills
And a government which seemingly will not use the tools at its disposal to regulate, tax and control the energy companies trying to get at the energy (see Coal Fields, Pennsylvania): PA State Gov’t Ill Equipped
The Marcellus even has its own documentary, “Gasland," with its very own “Michael Moore," whose name is Josh Fox: Marcellus Shale Documentary
There is one other thought I have which is this: If upstate New York and Pennsylvania’s economies were roaring with good manufacturing jobs, the way they were 40 years ago, would anyone be worried about getting value out of their land? I think one of the aspects which is being ignored in this is that these are two states which have aspects very much alike: huge percentages of the state are relatively income poor and land rich and decisions are being made by outsiders negotiating with people in the large metropolitan areas which are relatively land poor…and income rich. This is like how states site prisons – rural areas with no other options will take prisons and then find out that there are costs that they have no way of paying. In the short and long term, the Marcellus Shale is the same: A few people will make a lot of money on a personal basis – everyone else in the area will end up paying in increased taxes to pay the social and infrastructure costs. That’s right – companies like BP understand this concept well: it’s call privatizing the benefits…and socializing the costs.
(map of the Marcellus Shale courtesy of chuckchuckchuck)