Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale Deposit-Economic Boom or Ecological Nightmare?

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Services for Real Estate Pros with EXIT Realty Front and Center

     I must confess that I attended the "Gas Symposium" hosted by the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce with a fairly closed mind. After all, isn't the integrity of our water supply more important than all those dollar signs that everyone is so excited about?

     At least, that was what I was thinking. I can't say that I am 100% convinced because the danger will always exist that an accident can happen. Private wells have already been contaminated in the highly-publicized event in Dimmock, Pennsylvania. My understanding is that Cabot Oil has not taken full responsibility for the damage done either. If you can't have water, clean water, your home is worthless.

Water From a Faucet    However, I learned a few new things at the symposium about the process itself, the economic impact and land reclamation that have allayed some of my earlier fears. A representative from Chesapeake Energy gave an in-depth presentation covering these aspects as well as some others:

  • Gas-drilling is not new to New York, in fact was begun back in the mid 1800's.    
  • The Marcellus Shale deposit is possibly the largest deposit of natural gas in the world. After the oil fileds of Saudi Arabia, the Marcellus Shale deposit is the second largest fuel source in the world.
  • There is enough natural gas here to last 100 years of production.
  • The economic and fiscal impact would be beneficial as a new revenue stream which is much more desireable compared to increased taxes or cuts in benefits and services.

 

  • The gas companies do not have the power of eminent domain.
  • Oil and gas exploration and production is heavily regulated under a stringent system of federal, state and local laws.
  • The gas is extracted from beds that are generally 1-2 miles below the earth's surface. In contrast, nealry all potential drinking water is found generally 500 feet or less below the earth's surface. The water table therefore, is protected by thousands of feet of rock.
  • Natural gas is one of the cleanest and most abundant fuels available today.
  • Drilling of domestic gas reduces our county's need for foreign oil.

     Of course, one of the biggest questions is 'how will this affect land and home values'? The answer is 'no one knows'. A local credit union refuses to write mortgages for any property with a gas or oil lease on it regardless of whether the rights convey or not. They see it as a lean upon the property. 
     Another issue is simply the availability of land for sale. I have a buyer who has no interest in gas drilling but simply wants to build his dream house. There are few parcels available and we are having a fit finding some thing suitable.

     Right now, there is a moratorium on drilling until things get straightened out. You can read more here:
                                                            http://tinyurl.com/yjevwn9

     Lots of good information and upcoming events related to the Marcellus Shale gas drilling:

                                                           http://gasleasing.cce.cornell.edu/

                                                                            Map of the Marcellus Shale deposit

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Jennifer Arbach
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Anonymous
Mary Sweeney

While it is true that gas drilling has gone on in NY for a long time, it is important to understand that the techniques being used to unlock gas from shale are new--the development of these new techniques are an important reason why there is interest in the Marcellus Shale now. The type of fracking proposed for use in the shale is slickwater fracking: this particular type of fracking has only been around for about 13 years or so, and has been used in Texas in the Barnett Shale. Also, while some horizontal wells have been drilled in NY, the majority of wells have been vertical. The horizontal wells require large well pads and much, much higher volumes of fracking fluid. (More fracking fluid results in many more tanker truck trips as well as increased chance of water contamination and difficulty in disposing of the wastewater that comes back up form the well.) It is also important to note that shale gas drilling requires a very high gas well density--a study done by Broome County estimated 2000-4000 shale wells would be drilled in Broome County alone. While it's true that the large horizontal well pads can accommodate more than one well, it's also true that the wells require a network of access roads, pipelines, and compressor stations. Add all of this together, and a rural or suburban landscape can quickly become quite industrialized. Unfortunately, in NY state, just because an area is zoned residential, that doesn't mean gas wells cannot be located there. They can be located in residential areas--for most wells, no public hearings or notification of adjacent landowners are required.

Re eminent domain, while the gas companies may not have the power of eminent domain, it is my understanding that the pipeline companies, under certain circumstances at least, would have the power of eminent domain.

Re contamination of aquifers: 1) contamination can occur via spills at the surface; 2) it is unclear how much of a problem, if any, subsurface migration of fracking fluids may be; however, pathways for migration of fluids may exist because of the presence of abandoned, unplugged gas & oil wells; fluids and/or gases may migrate through improperly constructed gas well casings; some experts believe that natural and/or manmade fractures in the rock may provide additional pathways for fluid and/or gas migration.

Another consideration is the disposal of the fluid that returns from the wellbore: at present, it is unclear how this disposal will be handled. This fluid is extremely salty, may contain fracking chemicals, naturally occurring radioactive materials, and/or heavy metals.

Truck traffic, drilling noise & vibrations, and gas well flaring also present problems.

My husband and I have lived in the Southern Tier for over 25 years and we've been very happy here. We were planning on staying here for the rest of our lives, but now, because of the proposed drilling, we are thinking of leaving and have already begun to research other areas of the country for possible places in which to have a peaceful, safe retirement.

Feb 22, 2010 05:33 PM #1
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May 06, 2015 03:23 AM #2
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