Safe, Responsible Homegrown Energy Production Positively Impacting Livelihoods

Domestic energy production is helping to raise the standard of living for families, small businesses and retirees living on fixed-incomes. The linchpin to this production of job-creating homegrown energy, and the associated positive economic activity, is hydraulic fracturing. Without this environmentally proven 60-year old technique, much of our nation’s resources would remain out of reach.

Major news outlets over the weekend, especially in region’s where an uptick in natural gas production is occurring, are taking notice, too.

In an A-1, above-the-fold Philadelphia Inquirer article yesterday under the headline “Pa. Tapped, Drillers Not”, Andrew Maykuth takes a close look at the financial benefits many struggling families and businesses are now realizing because of energy production in the Marcellus Shale region. Maykuth tells a compelling story about the Barto family of Hughesville, Pennsylvania:

Barto’s wife, Louise, came to the door in a wheelchair. She was disabled 23 years ago in an automobile crash, and Barto quit his county job to care for her. Barto’s health is not so good, either. He lost a finger to a log splitter, got a knee replacement a few years ago, and had a kidney transplant in 1995 that freed him from dialysis.

“The wife and I, we’ve been without for quite a long time,” Barto said last week as he stood by a pen of watchful, mud-caked heifers.

Barto’s luck may have turned. In April, two wells drilled on his farm began producing natural gas, and the royalties started arriving in the summer. He and his neighbors became the latest Pennsylvanians to strike gold in a mile-deep layer of black rock called the Marcellus Shale.

The full scale of the Marcellus gas boom is still coming into focus, but Barto likes what he has seen so far.

In July, four days before Barto’s 67th birthday, he received the first check from Chief Oil & Gas L.L.C., the Dallas company that last year drilled the wells on this hardscrabble farm, 21 miles east of Williamsport.

Barto’s monthly royalty checks now come in at about $7,000. It’s just the beginning. He and 14 neighbors get royalty checks from the sale of the gas, but the wells capture only a fraction of the gas trapped in the rock. Chief plans to drill many more wells on Barto’s land and surrounding properties.

Barto is trying to keep his newfound bounty in perspective. With the compensation he got when Chief drilled on his land, he splurged on a $42,000 McCormick tractor – the first new tractor of his life – and he built a new metal barn.

Maykuth also highlights the critical energy production techniques required to produce the shale gas deep in the otherwise unreachable Marcellus formation:

Though the Marcellus was long known to contain gas, its potential became clear only recently as developers perfected a horizontal drilling technique that allows them to follow the contours of the shale bed. Since horizontal drilling began four years ago in southwestern Pennsylvania, geologists have raised their estimates of the recoverable reserves. By some estimates, the 363 trillion cubic feet of gas could supply the entire country for 15 years at current consumption rates.

Academics, energy experts and editorial boards are weighing in, too, on the critical nature hydraulic fracturing plays in our energy security. In today’s Oklahoman, David Deming – a geologist and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma – writes this in a column entitled “Plenty of oil out there”:

The Williston Basin in Montana and North Dakota contains nearly 4 billion barrels of oil that has yet to be discovered and produced. Oil has been produced from the Williston Basin since the 1920s. But the introduction of horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing have made it possible to exploit resources heretofore unreachable. Among the leaders in using the new technologies is Oklahoma’s own Continental Resources.

New York State Petroleum Council’s executive director, Mike Doyle, appears in Sunday’s New York Times. Doyle writes this:

We can safely develop New York’s extensive clean-burning natural gas supplies while also providing jobs, growth and substantial revenues to the state.

Studies of hydraulic fracturing, a 60-year-old technology crucial to natural gas development and already widely used in New York, strongly suggest that the technology is safe despite recent concerns.

And the Grand Junction Sentinel writes this in an editorial from the weekend:

The Environmental Protection Agency has twice concluded that fracking is not dangerous — once during the Clinton administration and most recently in 2004.

The EPA is also conducting tests on water wells in central Wyoming found to be tainted with a number of chemicals. The wells are in a natural gas field, but despite the claims of some environmentalists, the EPA is a long way from concluding that fracking was the source of the contamination. The EPA is conducting more tests to determine how much contamination there is, whether it poses a health hazard and where it came from.

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