A Tale of Two Shale States’ Response

On July 26, the Wall Street Journal issued an editorial entitled “A Tale of Two Shale States.”  I disagree with the editors on this issue, and this is why:

Fat pockets are useless if you die of thirst. The commentary presented in “A Tale of Two Shale States” covers a very narrow point of view on the debate over natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale.  It’s all about the money. However, if you look beneath the dollar bills you will start to see real people who have been impacted by the frantic rush to drill for natural gas in Pennsylvania. For example, recently the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Chesapeake Energy nearly $1.09 million for contaminating the drinking water of 16 families with natural gas, and, separately, for an explosion at a condensate storage tank.   

In August 2010, the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association issued a report discussing drilling company citations for 1,614 violations by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over a period of 2.5 years. Many violations were for inadequate construction of frack wastewater impoundments, discharging industrial waste onto the ground or into commonwealth waters, and violating the state Clean Streams Law.

American Rivers believes that the State of New York and the Delaware River Basin Commission have been wise to delay the issuance of regulations as they deliberate what will best protect their residents’ water. While their plans could be even tighter and more protective, at least they have taken a moment to learn from the problems in Pennsylvania and think about what the consequences might be.

In fact, if New York City’s water supply becomes contaminated from natural gas development, the city would have to build a filtration plant estimated to cost between $6 and $8 billion and between $350 and $400 million a year to operate. That number does not even account for the value of the water supply in the rest of the state, the loss of recreation value, the infrastructure repair costs, and remediation of other damages. Accidents do happen in every industry, and in this case the cost would be high.