Appalachian Basin

Countryside Conservancy Gets Facts on Natural Gas Development

A recent tour of natural gas development operations in  northeastern Pennsylvania provided Countryside Conservancy supporters with new insights on the process.  It was a welcome opportunity to share the facts often getting lost in the debate.  The tour hosted around 25 people some of whom own land under conservancy protection and the rest being local folks from the Wilkes Barre and Scranton areas.  Conservancy Executive Director, Bill Kern, arranged the tour to provide friends of the group with an up close view of natural gas development.  Many were skeptical of what they would see but, at the end of the day, all came away learning something new.  That’s what it’s all about.

Countryside Conservancy

Countrywide Conservancy was established in 1994 and is a nonprofit corporation.  Its main goal is simply to protect vital lands and waters in northeastern Pennsylvania.  The group’s target area of operations includes parts of Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties.

The conservancy owns and manages certain lands of high conservation value to protect their natural values forever. Some important benefits of these protected lands include:

  • Protecting natural and distinctive landscapes for all to enjoy
  • Safeguarding valued resources through appropriate management
  • Providing public access to natural areas for enjoyment and education

– Countryside Conservancy

Countryside Conservancy Executive Director Bill Kern (Left)

The Tour

The group met at Cabot Oil & Gas headquarters at 9:30 a.m. and headed out to Springville.  The tour was led by my predecessor here at EID Marcellus, William DeRosiers, and, George Stark, who manages Cabot’s External Affairs department.  The initial stop on the tour was a drilling rig where we got to see exactly how horizontal wells are drilled.  We spoke directly to some of the engineers and geologists involved and got invaluable first-hand information.  The tour was made especially  informative by the ability of the participants to directly engage the experts and see things with their own eyes, demonstrating just how critical these tours are to forming a more complete understanding of the natural gas development process among a general population that often get exposed to little more than headlines and hysteria.

Drilling Rig

Learning about the rig

The next stop was Cabot’s Comtech Facilities where all of their flowback and brine fluid is treated.  Once again, the tour participants got a first hand demonstration at how the hydraulic fracturing fluid is handled and what is done with both flowback and produced water, both of which are, contrary to remarks made by NRDC’s Eric Goldstein last evening in Manhattan at another event covered by EID Marcellus, successfully treated and recycled on an ongoing basis.  It is always amazing to see how technology is consistently producing more efficient and environmentally friendly processes that dispense with the objections of natural gas opponents as fast as they can raise them.

Through recycling our flowback and brine fluid we have been able to reduce our consumptive use of fresh water during the hydraulic fracturing phase of development.  To date we have hydraulically fractured one well using only recycled flowback fluid and had great results in doing so.  This gives up hope that we will continue to be able to less and less fresh water during the well completion stage. – George Stark

Comtech Facility

Learning about Comtech facility

The last stop on the tour was a completed well site.  The “Greenwood” pad has four wells on the property and when the wells first started producing they pumped out more natural gas then all 0f Cabot’s other wells in West Virgina.  Driving up to the site we saw a family of turkeys right next to the well site, and with “Greenwood” being in the process of full reclamation we were able to see how animals are able to coexist with natural gas development.

Countryside Conservancy and Natural Gas

The point of yesterday’s tour was to give members of the Conservancy and other locals a first hand look at natural gas development.  The Conservancy has not taken a position on shale gas development per se and is continuing to look at all the facts surrounding the issue.  Now, if only we could get some of the others who talk repeatedly about Dimock without having ever been there to do the same thing…

True to our mission, the Conservancy’s priority is working to protect the lands and waters of northeast PA. To fulfill this goal, we must balance the environmental challenges of natural gas extraction with the economic benefits to landowners. Taking a 100% anti-drilling stance would isolate us from the very people that own the land which we are striving to protect. Conversely, being 100% pro-drilling would not only ruin our credibility but also severely jeopardize the conservation values of the lands and waters that we have worked so hard to protect for the past 15 years. This balancing act is not always easy, but we are proud of our role as a trusted, fact-based resource for educating the public on all things Marcellus. We strive to serve as a clearinghouse of information and filter out the half-truths, quarter truths and zero truths being perpetuated by both sides of the issue. – Countryside Conservancy

Learning About Marcellus Shale

Learning about Marcellus Shale

Reaction to Seeing Development Firsthand

After the tour I was able to speak to a couple people who came on the tour.

I have seen Gasland and thought it was really good.  I also thought it was really good to see this side of it too.  It helped me get a good picture to make an informed decision for natural gas development.  What I saw today shows that operators are striving to meet health and safety standards.  The thing for me is that this is a hot topic and accidents can happen.  There are a lot of gray areas here and seeing this development first hand helped shed light on the topic.  – Patrick, Pratt Institute, Masters in Sustainability.

It was a good tour and great to see the standard operating procedures that Cabot uses.  I still feel that this is as much a technical issue as a political one.  I think that for every operator like Cabot there are some who don’t practice the same stringent standards.  Going forward, it’s up to the industry and government to regulate it responsibly.  From a 10,000 foot level, this process, in general, is a good one and natural gas is a good alternative to other fossil fuels like coal or petroleum.  We need to make sure the manner in which it is extracted continues to be done in a responsible manner.  I believe the processes and technology behind this industrial process will continue to improve. – Oliver, Columbia University, SEPA public administration degree.

We could quibble with some of those statements, but, overall, they demonstrate the one thing, the only thing, we can ever expect from anyone – an open mind.  That’s all we need, after all, because the facts are with us.    These tours are about getting information on a complicated process out to these sorts of individuals so they can make intelligent decisions for themselves.  Unfortunately, many people fear the unknown and find it easier to live in fear than to educate themselves as this group did.  Anyone else looking to do the same and desiring to take a tour and learn more about the process should contact an operator or our EID Marcellus team to make arrangements.  See and learn with your own eyes.


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