Marcellus Shale

The Truth Is Natural Gas Development Is Safe, Responsible and Good for Us

My first experience with a natural gas company goes back to between 2005 and 2006. A landman approached me about signing a lease.  I looked at what he was proposing, which, at first, sounded quite interesting. But, after reading over the lease, I decided it wasn’t for me. I was then again approached in 2007 with leasing at a higher price. This is when I thought it was time to do a little more research on what this industry was all about.

After some research on the Marcellus Shale and learning a boom was about to over take our area (Bradford County, Pennsylvania), it was time to find a responsible gas company that would work with me in adding a few addendums to the standard lease that would help me be at ease with this new found investment.  It wasn’t hard to find one, because there was a landman knocking at my door every other day at that time.  Most of the gas industry’s representatives seemed knowledgeable when questions were asked of them.  If they were not able to answer at that time, they got back to me in a reasonable amount of time with an answer. We all know of Google and most of us have access to computers now-a-days. You would be surprised what you can find there to help you out.

It didn’t take long for the gas companies to set up shop once they had enough land leased to start their development process. Land was cleared for pads and heavy traffic initially flooded our roads. It seem as we were being invaded by outsiders from about every state in the country. I was so curious in what was going on and would talk to everyone who would give me the time to discuss what was happening in my area. All the new people I met always seem to address me as “sir” which is something I am not used to hearing in this area.

Everywhere I looked out my front door I saw construction changing the landscape and the asphalt of local back roads being crushed. I wondered what was going to happen now. But, once the development pace eased up, the roads were rebuilt, not just repaired. The outer slopes of the pads and the gas lines were seeded with a mixture of native grasses. All that seemed to be missing was a few trees.  Quiet has returned to my area, which I had felt would never be the same again.

Natural Gas Well Pad

Natural Gas Well Pad in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania

It seems like every three months or so some traffic does occur again for a few days, with heavy water trucks running about. The entrance to one of these roads became somewhat muddy and slippery one day, which I felt was hazardous. I emailed the company about the situation that was occurring and it was brushed clean in a matter of hours.  The gas industry that came to our area seemed to be standing up and doing what they said they would when questions were asked of them at the time we signed our lease.

But, as we all know, along came a movie called Gasland.  This movie made little sense to me.  I moved here almost 20 years ago and have heard many stories about bubbling creeks and burning water long before any landman came knocking on my door. What they were saying was nothing new to me. I felt that the gas companies were responsible in what they were doing because they are the pros. Polluting of water wells, waste pits on well pads leaking and multiple fines of all sorts?  Not knowing whether these assertions from the film were true or false, I decided to find ways to do field research on my own to make a better decision on these issues.

Besides just spending hours of riding around and talking to people I went to a few local town meetings that were natural gas related.  Both parties got to speak at these meetings – the pro-gas and the anti-gas sides.  I did hear of a few water problems at some of these gatherings, but it always seemed to be a certain isolated location where this problem arose. I heard about fluid spills on sites, which I believed could happen in this business, as we all know humans do make mistakes and machines do break down.  After hearing these things I needed to research even further to see how responsible natural gas companies were.  I was able to go on a few tours the gas companies offered. If you can ever get the chance to go on one of these tours, I strongly recommend you do.

This is a little what to expect. First, you are well informed where you are about to go. You are given safety equipment you must wear before entering the site.  All development and hydraulic fracturing sites have security at the entrance and you must check in with your group before entering.  Once I was on a site I was very impressed with some of the things I saw. The rig itself is set on a platform which also has a liner laid on the surface with barriers around it to catch any spills. Large engines set in a row.  There were also containers I assumed held water for use in the process and all pieces of equipment seemed to have liners under them in case any spilling occurred.

CHK Well Pad and Berm

Chesapeake Energy Well Pad and Hydraulic Fracturing Site with Berm All Around – Note Fresh Water Pipe

Our group was allowed to enter trailers where operators were monitoring over all activities being performed on the site, using all sorts of sophisticated equipment.  Caution and safety seemed to be the biggest priority in what I observed.  I didn’t see any waste pits. The companies now use what they call a closed loop system, which means all fluids are all contained. I did notice vacuum trucks close by, that are used in case of a spill.

The economy in this area has benefited from the arriving of the gas industry.  Their donations and help at the time of the flooding seemed to be countless.  As new issues arise, in this expanding development of our area I will continue to do a little research on whatever it may be.  Don’t let someone else form your opinion, form your own. We in this area do live on a vast amount of natural gas. This gas is needed to help our nation meet its energy needs.  I feel we need to do our part to become more self-sufficient. There is a price to be paid in all we do. We need to share those responsibilities in doing the best we can to do these things safely.

Note: (An earlier version of this post appeared as “Forming An Opinion About the Gas Industry” in the Towanda Daily Review)


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