What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 21, 2010

Gasland, PA (Updated 1x)

If the phrase "Marcellus Shale" is still not quite on your radar and only vaguely registers to you as some environmental shit that you probably should know more about -- not to worry -- we're all about to get schooled.

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.


e b bortz said...

Thanks for the plug on Gasland
and the disaster Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
There are very clear results already on the environmental destruction that this
gas drilling (and chemical injection into the water table) can cause. We all need to be educated so that we can educate our neighbors...stop the fracking:

Ed Bortz, Green Party candidate for Congress, 14th District

chad osko said...

Hopefully we're all fully educating ourselves fully - on both sides of the debate. See Gasland Debunked, where much of the film is proven to be false.


Maria said...

And, Chad has just provided us with the natural gas and oil producers' view.

Are you this Chad Osko who is a Social Media Specialist for Chesapeake Energy?

If so, then you're certainly earning your bucks!

Maria said...

Though come to think of it, one would expect a 'Social Media Specialist" to know how to hotlink in blog comments.

Bad, bad, Social Media Specialist.

Maria said...

Yeah, I guess you are that Chad.

From our site meter:

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Gloria said...

The WPXI show tonight "Fueling Pgh."
Hopefully tomorrow we can all comment on it. I'm curious to learn of its effect on Pittsburghers.

Sorry, Mr. Osko, if I want an Oklahoman's opinion, I'll go to any one the many Pittsburgh Quik-E-Marts, where I'm sure to run into some of your state's residents. Hey, I thought Marcellus = jobs for Pittsburghers?

JenEngland said...

Pretty fired up (no pun intended) after watching this. Mr Osko, how can you live with yourself? I'll be one of many making sure this doesn't come to Pittsburgh or Allegheny County any further without a fight.

Mike said...

The truth is probably someplace in the middle with respect to the claims made by Gasland and Chad and his buddies. Keep in mind that both arguments are very one sided.

The biggest problem I have with drilling whether it be here or the Gulf, is that the industry has no credibility when it comes to safety and following their own processes. I don't trust them one bit. As we saw in the gulf, the regulators are of no use.

The oil disaster in the gulf would not have happened if they would have simply followed industry best practices instead of cut corners.

Most of Chad's website talks about regulation at the state level. The problems cross state lines, however. Water contamination in PA can travel downstream to Ohio, for example. I think this needs to be looked at from a Federal standpoint.

I think we should find ways to take advantage of the resources, but we need to make sure that all the safe guards are in place. Just saying "No" isn't the answer either.

Felix Dzerzhinsky said...

Chad has developed a new way to frac the shale: douche.

You can call me juvenile, but I'm not as juvenile as Chad.

Gloria said...

The industry's bleating reminds me of the Wicked Witch "sleep, sleep"

EdHeath said...

All right, so I just watched this documentary and during and after I looked at Chad Osko's link (cut and pasted). What strikes me is that even if you "prove" "much" of the film to be "false", even taking that on face value, then the is the part not proven false. Which indicates a problem.

We know about Donora and Love Canal, problems that happened or developed before laws were written. But now, we have the Minerals Management Service, which is second only to income and business taxes in being a source of revenue for the government. And yet is supposed to regulate industry, tell them to drill more slowly and carefully, and reduce that revenue.

And now "fracking" (who knew that Battlestar Galactica would persist). Despite Chad's (or CM's or HTTT's) expectations, I wouldn't say we should stop drilling for oil or natural gas. But killing our own citizens and destroying thousands of miles of our own country really doesn't seem rational. Especially since we live in a city smack in the middle of the Marcellus Shale.

When there is a point by point refutation of "Gasland" by scientific sources (independent of industry), then get back to me.

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely correct in all of your points regarding these gas well drilling people.

Gas drilling DOES have a serious negative impact on well water. Just ask the people who live west of Washington PA in Hopewell Twp.

Also, Jesse White is taking in money from these gas drillers, as is a LOT of other of our elected officials. You wouldn't believe the money these people are getting.

By the way, Halliburton (yeah, thanks Bush and Cheney, you bastards) is connected to all of this in a big, big way. How come we're not being told what chemicals they're dumping down into the ground? Isn't it interesting how they erect fencing you cannot see past around all of the frac pits? What are they hiding?

You can read a lot about it here: http://www.marcellus-shale.us/

It's really sickening. Beautiful land is being torn up, well water is now tainted, and the property value of those who live near these gas wells is now worthless.

I have LOTS more information about it if you're interested. I speak from experience because my Mom and Dad are going through it. It's really bad and no one wants to talk about it because of money. It's all about money with these people.

These drillers need to be exposed for who they are.

Get the word out!