Pennsylvania sits atop one of the world’s largest deposits of natural gas, a formation known as the Marcellus shale, and the past five years have seen a takeoff in the natural gas industry.
Last year alone, oil and gas companies, such as Shell, Chevron, Reliance and BG Group (the Reading-based company that is one half of the former British Gas) poured $17.9bn (£10.8bn) into projects in the area last year. They drilled 1,415 new wells in Pennsylvania alone.
The companies expect to drill 2,000 additional wells this year, rising to 3,500 a year by the middle of the decade, said Katie Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Association, an industry group.
Some projections suggest there could be 100,000 new gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania by the end of this decade.
“There are very few counties that don’t have at least a couple of Marcellus wells that have been drilled,” she said. “Just about every county has some drilling.” And, environmentalists argue, just about every county has direct experience of its dangers.
In February, about 100 citizens showed up for a hearing on oil and gas drilling regulations proposed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. A procedural wrinkle created in January by an administrative decision of the state’s incoming Governor Haslam opened the door for a second hearing on the proposed regulations, scheduled for next Thursday, April 28, 2011at 6 pm at TDEC’s field office in Knoxville.
Tennessee groups that began their collaboration for the first hearing have continued meetings to discuss drilling issues in the state. Next week they’ll gather again to give further testimony on specific concerns.
While much public concern about oil and gas well drilling nationwide focuses on hydrofracturing, there are many other serious issues with extraction to be addressed, such as casing deterioration of abandoned wells and damages to land and vegetation secondary to well pad construction.
“I am ruling out the need for us to move directly to a regulatory mechanism when we have folks stepping up and are willing to do the conservation measures,” she told reporters after the visits.
Jackson has been under fire for months from Republicans and agribusiness interests over environmental agency actions or rumors that the agency was going to issue regulations on a range of issues, including dust and pesticides as well as water pollution.
The public comment period on the two options for regulating the waste closed on November 19, and the EPA says it logged more than 400,000 comments on the rule. The agency has not offered a timeline for announcement of the final rule. Most observers aren’t expecting it until the end of 2011 at the earliest—cold comfort to communities like Harriman that have millions of gallons of this stuff right in their backyards.
“Two years after the largest toxic spill in the nation’s history, there is still no regulation of deadly coal ash dumps—nor is there clear direction from EPA on the timing or content of a final rule,” said Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel for Earthjustice. “For the communities enduring damage from aging ponds and leaking landfills, time has run out. There is no reason on earth that their health should be compromised by such an easily avoidable harm.”
A state order against TVA will idle the Kingston Fossil Plant’s new $456 million air scrubber until the utility drains and relines the 1-year-old gypsum waste pond that sprang a leak last week.
The leak, discovered Wednesday — exactly one week before the 2-year anniversary of TVA’s 1.2 million-gallon coal ash spill at the same Harriman, Tenn., plant — sent a shock wave through the community.
“Are we really safe? Really?” said Sarah McCoin, a resident of the Swan Pond community where TVA still has about 500 million gallons of ash to clean up.
Over the past two years, the agency has been working diligently—for the first time in quite a while—to be a credible protector of the environment. In the long-term struggle to protect all Americans’ right to breathe clean air, we cannot allow short-term political pressure to change that.
The EPA’s critics, however, are brazenly applying political pressure to protect the interests of big polluters by paralyzing the agency. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)—the polluter-friendly chair-to-be of the House Energy and Commerce Committee—has publicly stated that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will be summoned to testify before his committee so often that she should be given her own parking space on Capitol Hill. But Upton and his ilk are jeopardizing far more than the EPA’s agenda with such ostentatious political grandstanding.
Read the whole story via A Defining Moment for EPA and America’s Health | unEARTHED, the Earthjustice blog.