PublicK NuisancE Shale, Marcellus

Posted by By at 21 October, at 09 : 04 AM Print

It’s all about the money, it’s always about the money.

It’s not about the people in Susquehanna County who can’t drink their water, because the Department of Environmental Protection has found a “permanent solution to the drinking water problems.”

Here it is: “PENNVEST, an agency that finances water and sewer infrastructure projects, will be asked to provide funds to pay the estimated $11.8 million cost for Pennsylvania American Water Company to construct a new, 5.5-mile water main from its Lake Montrose treatment plant to provide water service.”

See? Simple.

Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation apparently fouled the drinking water in Dimock, Pa., with poorly constructed wells while extracting natural gas from Marcellus Shale deposits.

So no big deal. The state will have a water company build a pipeline and send the bill to Cabot. Problem solved. Except … what about the chemically poisoned groundwater that underlies Dimock? What happens when it underlies 80 percent of the state of Pennsylvania? What, we build a pipeline from Jersey?

In his analysis of the Marcellus Shale “agreement in principle,” Scott Paterno said this:

“There are two things I believe are inarguable facts: 1) we are going to take the gas out of the ground; and 2) it is going to be taxed.”

Fair enough. Here, are two more:

1.) Water doesn’t grow on trees.

2.) We can’t drink natural gas.

So I want to know how we are going to prevent the corporate greedheads from fouling the drinking water across Pennsylvania, and how I am going to keep the friends I have while we fight about it.

Here is my vintage trump card: the utter devastation brought to us a century ago by the anthracite coal industry, in collusion with the state of Pennsylvania. In collusion all the way down to the recent gentlemen’s agreement that the state would disseminate to the natural gas corporations “information” about the “terrorists” who oppose drilling.

Anyone who grew up in the shadow of a culm bank with tales of Pinkertons and breaker boys would see the connection with the thrilling days of the Coal & Iron Police – when the state of Pennsylvania collaborated with mine owners to clamp down on the “troublemakers.”

Let’s pause and recap.

Marcellus Shale is not a running back the Eagles cut in training camp. It’s a dark sedimentary rock named after an outcrop in the town of Marcellus, New York. It underlies more than two-thirds of Pennsylvania, from surface level to a mile below ground. It is an exceptional natural gas pool, rich in organic content. Production estimates range from 50 to 500 trillion cubic feet. (It’s B.I.G.) Even the lower estimate would be worth about a trillion dollars.

The majorly large corporate entities lust for the trillion buckos, or whatever the next bigger number is. The Honorable Ed Rendell lusts for tax revenue to balance his final imaginary budget. The Legislature has not lined up enough kickbacks to make that happen.

So let’s be real.

As Scott says, this natural gas bonanza is coming out of the ground, and the Legislature will stumble around getting another drink until it finds a way to tax it. The only – let me say that again –- the ONLY issue unresolved is how to preserve whatever good water we have.

Forget the feds. The list of federal exemptions for the natural gas industry reads like a Tea Party letter to Santa. It is exempt from the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Superfund law. It can stream toxic chemicals into our ground and our water and not even have to contribute to the cleanup. That’s right.

Not. Even. Contribute.

They just take the money and run.

Unless, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Legislature step up and act like … I don’t know, like THE GOVERNMENT?

The state Environmental Quality Board can propose all the requirements it wants to. This is still Pennsylvania, the most ethically casual state north of Louisiana. Who’s going to enforce the law? Does it sound like this guy will? This is John Hanger, DEP Secretary, on the $11 million water solution in Susquehanna County.

“Perhaps next time Cabot will do the job right the first time and avoid expensive repairs.”

Last year, Hanger told Reuters news service that the value of the gas underlying Pennsylvania and parts of surrounding states outweighs any damage the drilling may cause.

In another interview, Hanger said he said he hoped the industry would use best practices in its operations.

Hope so too. But how’s that going?

Here’s, some environmental crazy named David Masur of PennEnvironment:

“Here’s the tip of the toxic iceberg in Pennsylvania from Marcellus Shale gas drilling: In the 18 months since it started, there’s been a drinking water advisory for 325,000 residents of the Pittsburgh area, seven counties reporting methane gas in well water and nearly 1,500 violations of cornerstone environmental laws.”

Drink up, Gentle Reader. While you can.

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Pat Carroll has worked as a writer and editor for newspapers and television for three decades. His checkered career path also included gigs as a personal chef, iron pourer, dishwasher and commercial real estate appraiser. He writes now only to finance his golf addiction. - Email Patt Carroll

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