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The Marcellus Shale and how natural gas fracking may affect your community
Information on the Marcellus Shale from our environmental lawyers
The Marcellus Shale is a black shale formation extending deep underground from Ohio and West Virginia northeast into Pennsylvania and southern New York.
Although the Marcellus Shale is exposed at the ground surface in some locations in the northern Finger Lakes area, it is as deep as 7,000 feet or more below the ground surface along the Pennsylvania border in the Delaware River valley.
Drilling activity is expected to focus on areas where the Marcellus shale is deeper than 2,000 feet.
Geologists estimate that the entire Marcellus Shale formation contains between 168 trillion to 516 trillion cubic feet of natural gas throughout its entire extent.
It is not yet known how much gas will be commercially recoverable from the Marcellus in New York. To put this into context, New York State uses about 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year.
Although geologists have long known about the natural gas resources of the Marcellus Shale formation, the depth and tightness of the shale made gas exploration and extraction very difficult and expensive.
Interest has increased significantly of late due to recent enhancements to gas well development technology, specifically horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the proximity of high natural gas demand markets in New York, New Jersey and New England and the construction of the Millennium Pipeline through the Southern Tier.
Questions have been raised about possible environmental and community impacts.
In fact, families living near gas drilling facilities in Wyoming, Ohio, Texas and Osgood’s home in the state of Pennsylvania have already complained that their well water has turned cloudy, or even black in color, and is foul-smelling.
An article in the New York Times on December 8, 2009 highlighted the predicament of a woman from the Appalachian hills in Dimock, Pa., whose family’s drinking water was contaminated with high levels of methane—reportedly a result of gas fracking. The Times report also cited a situation in Bainbridge, Ohio where an improperly drilled well resulted in contaminated groundwater. After building to high pressures, the Times wrote, “gas migrated through underground faults, and blew up one house.”
On September 25, Pennsylvania regulators ordered Cabot Oil & Gas Corp to halt fracking operations in one county after it had admitted that three recent spills of fracking fluid had occurred. Reportedly, 8,000 gallons of toxic chemicals were spilled on the ground and into a creek in Susquehanna County.
“There’s a rush on to exploit favorable market conditions for natural gas,” observed Lem Srolovic, an attorney in the Environmental unit. “Unfortunately, gas companies and their well service providers appear all too often willing to place communities and the environment at risk. But those companies must conform to a standard of reasonable care for the communities in which they operate. Where gas extraction injures health or damages property, they should be held accountable,” Mr. Srolovic stated.
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