Friday, Jan. 7, 2011
A recent Associated Press article printed in the Observer-Reporter goes to great lengths to convince readers that Pennsylvania streams and rivers are under attack by the state’s natural gas industry – stating matter-of-factly that these surface waters have become the “primary disposal place” for the water that’s produced in the process of developing the Marcellus Shale.
In fact, the “primary disposal place” for this water is no disposal place at all – a function of the fact that Pennsylvania’s natural gas producers on average recycle more than 90 percent of the water that returns to the surface. The rest is delivered to underground injection sites, often in neighboring states, whose location, construction, maintenance and inspection is regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Everything else falls under jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act, which directly regulates the type and amount of water allowed to be treated at wastewater facilities. Still, the industry is committed to being a zero discharge operation in the state’s surface waters, and continues to lead the nation in recycling technologies and practices.
Indeed, thanks to advances in technology, producers today are able to access more clean-burning natural gas by drilling fewer wells, lessening impacts to the land and greatly reducing the volume of water needed to do the job. To the AP’s credit, some of these facts did eventually find their way into the 3,000-word story that appeared in this paper. Unfortunately, they were buried down so deep, it’s possible those facts may have been missed by many of your readers.
The writer is president and executive director of the Canonsburg-based Marcellus Shale Coalition.