Dancing with the data in the Pennsylvania gas patch
By Bruce Baizel
November 5, 2012
A string of recent reports and papers have brought to the forefront the value of having publicly accessible, complete and accurate information about gas development.
First, there was the Duke University team that found apparent migration of substantial amounts of methane from gas wells to private water wells as far out as 1000m in the Marcellus play in Pennsylvania.
More recently, we found that:
- Contaminants associated with oil and gas development are present in air and water in many communities in Pennsylvania where development is occurring.
- Many residents have developed health symptoms that they did not have before—indicating the strong possibility that they are occurring because of gas development.
- By permitting widespread gas development without fully understanding its impacts to public health—and using that lack of knowledge to justify regulatory inaction—Pennsylvania and other states are risking the public’s health.
Others have also been looking at the data on Pennsylvania drilling and finding that:
- Operator-wide statistics from the DEP in Pennsylvania show that about 6-7% of new wells drilled in each of the past three years have compromised structural integrity. (Ingraffea, 2012, “Fluid Migration Mechanisms due to Faulty Well Design and/or Construction: an Overview and Recent Experiences in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Play”)
- The PA DEP Bureau of Laboratories “purposely” does not report the entire test results to the Oil & Gas Division or the homeowner who has complained of water quality degradation from shale drilling activities.
We also recently found, using publicly available DEP data, that Pennsylvania was unequipped to handle the regulation of the Marcellus gas boom.
The take-home’s from this?
First, it is essential to note that none of this would be possible without publicly accessible and reliable non-industry controlled information.
Second, until states can demonstrate through publicly accessible data, that gas drilling is safe, it is difficult to maintain the public’s trust.
For more information:
- Duke University: Osborn et al., 2011, “Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing”, PNAS May 17, 2011 vol. 108 no. 20 8172-8176, http://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8172
- Earthworks Public Health and Gas Development
- Krancer Letter
- Earthworks Oil and Gas Enforcement