First, for the totally uninitiated, via Wikipedia:
Marcellus Shale, is a unit of marine sedimentary rock found in eastern North America. Named for a distinctive outcrop near the village of Marcellus, New York, it extends throughout much of the Appalachian Basin, blah, blah, blah...OK. Scratch that.
Marcellus Shale is a rock formation that, if you're reading this in Western PA, is under the ground you stand on and contains trillions of cubic feet of natural gas that folks are dying to drill in your very neighborhood. The gas is a mile underground, so to get to it, they have to drill horizontally (directional drill) and to do that, they have to fracture the rock (hydraulic fracturing, AKA: fracking) by pumping in a mix of water and "an undisclosed mixture of chemicals."
You can probably see where this is going. If you can't, there's a documentary on HBO tonight at 9:00 PM called "Gasland" (available On Demand now). Here's the trailer:
Hopefully, you watched it all the way though and saw one of the last scenes where the guy turned on his water tap, held a BIC lighter to it, and ignited a huge friggin' fireball in his sink.
See, that's the problem. When you frack you can fuck the groundwater.
But, that's not the only problem.
Maybe you heard about the fireball in West Virginia and the gas well blowout in Clearfield County, PA earlier this month. Despite having a 75-foot column of pressurized gas and wastewater streaming for 16 hours only 90 miles from Pittsburgh, there seems to be no footage of the Clearfield accident.
Just as with the BP accident, the Clearfield well's blowout preventer failed. And, just as with BP, the media was kept away. (You can read Keystone Progress' Michael Morrill's harrowing account of trying to capture the scene on his flipcam here.)
Now imagine these accidents happening in the city of Pittsburgh.
People have already signed leases to allow drilling in Lawrenceville and Lincoln Place. (Chris Potter of the City Paper explains how if pooling comes to pass, you may not even be able to stop drilling right under your own home.)
The prospects of drilling in Pittsburgh will come up before City Council this week (as it has last week in the PA Legislature) with Patrick Dowd proposing regulations and Doug Shields coming out for a total ban. (Expect the lines to be drawn on the usual sides.)
So, you can no longer avoid the Marcellus Shale debate if you live in da Burgh.
Contact your councilors here.
Additional Reading (via PA bloggers):
Life in the Gas Lane: Living with Drilling, Part I
Life in the Gas Lane: Living with Drilling, Part II-a
Life in the Gas Lane: Living with Drilling, Part II-b
Life in the Gas Lane: Living with Drilling, Part II-c
Gas Wells Are Not Our Friends
UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long! We have a visitor from a natural gas drilling company:
And, they're shilling in our comments section.