The Promise and Problems of Shale Gas - 07.24.2011
[SUITERS] Energy stored in shale rock deep below the ground. [Equipment roaring] Powering the country's move to natural gas above ground.
[KATHRYN KLABER] It's a game changer among game changers.
[SUITERS] It could be one of America's most promising energy sources, but at what cost?
[MIKE PHILLIPS] I don't feel safe in our house, and I don't think that, you know, we'll ever feel safe drinking tap water again.
[SUITERS] From the environmental and health concerns...
[JIM LLEWELLYN] This is called effervescing of water --
[SUITERS] Yeah, it's bubbling up almost like soda water.
[GARTH LLEWELLYN] Yeah, like seltzer water.
[SUITERS] ...to the economic benefits.
[KAREN PARKHURST] We're just coming off our best year to date in the five years we've been here, and we're looking forward to just keep getting better.
[SUITERS] The stakes are getting higher.
[PROTESTORS, CHANTING] No free pass for oil and gas!
[JOHN HANGER] If you're being completely, totally honest, the answer is, there is no zero risk.
[SUITERS] We take you to one state that's tackling tough questions about the nation's energy future. This is "energyNOW!"
Hello, I'm Tyler Suiters. Welcome to "energyNOW!", a weekly look at America's energy challenges and what we're doing about them. Thalia Assuras is on assignment. This week, something different -- one report for our entire program -- on an energy source that could go a long way to helping meet those challenges. A story about natural gas from shale rock formations thousands of feet underground, one of the most controversial energy sources we have. "energyNOW!" has been exploring the effects of shale gas production -- how it's changing the way the nation powers itself, and the toll it could be taking on the environment.
You've probably heard it referred to as "fracking" or "hydraulic fracturing." And you may have heard some of the controversy. From viral videos...
[GROUP, SINGING ] What the frack is going on With all this fracking going on?
[SUITERS] To energy industry advertising campaigns.
[TEXT ON SCREEN] ANGA COMMERCIAL
"Move To Natural Gas Vehicles Accelerates" -- The Houston Chronicle 3/31/11
Myth: There's nothing we can do to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign energy.
[ANNOUNCER] Fact -- America has more natural gas than Saudia Arabia has oil.
[TEXT ON SCREEN] Fact: There's something we can do right now to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign energy.
[SUITERS] To this celebrity anti-fracking ad.
[TEXT ON SCREEN] cleanwaternotdirtydrilling.org
[MAN] I love my New York water.
[SUITERS] The bottom line -- we need energy, a lot of it. The U.S. uses more energy per person than any other country. A quarter of that energy comes from natural gas. And more and more of that gas is coming from rock formations called shale. To get to it, the industry is using old technology in a new way -- drilling deeper, and using millions of gallons of water to bring up vast quantities of natural gas previously thought to be unreachable. The surge in shale gas production has sent prices plummeting, down more than 65% since the summer of 2008.
[TEXT ON SCREEN] Source: EIA.
[SUITERS] If you heat your home with natural gas, your winter heating bill has fallen by an average of about $200 in the past five years.
But is shale gas production contaminating drinking water or affecting people's health? Is the country moving too quickly to produce its shale gas? There are about 2 dozen shale formations in North America in more than half of the 50 states, producing about a quarter of the nation's natural gas.
[TEXT ON SCREEN] Source: Lippman Consulting
[SUITERS] And nowhere is the controversy hotter, the battle more pitched, than in Pennsylvania, one of the states sitting atop the massive Marcellus Shale, a shale formation that accounts for about 3% of all the natural gas the country produces.
First, a note about "energyNOW!" Our initial support comes from the American Clean Skies Foundation, which is funded in part by Chesapeake Energy, a major player in the shale gas business. "energyNOW!" is editorially independent. Neither the foundation nor its backers control what we say or do on this program. We strive to report on energy and the environment accurately and fairly, with no agenda other than informing you about critical issues that affect us all.
This week, we are taking you into Pennsylvania's shale country, a crucible for the promise and problems of an energy source America can't afford to ignore.
[PHILLIPS] We would say, as you came to our house, "Welcome to Paradise." It certainly isn't like that anymore.
[SUITERS] Mike Phillips' house sits on Paradise Road in rural Bradford County, Pennsylvania.
[PHILLIPS] My two neighbors, they're in the same situation that I am.
[SUITERS] But last year, life changed for the high school teacher and his family.
It's not clear.
[PHILLIPS] Oh, it's not clear. I can pour water out of there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that looks like milk.
[SUITERS] Phillips' water and the water of some of his neighbors has become contaminated, an especially big concern, with a pair of young children at home.
[PHILLIPS] I don't feel safe in our house, and I don't think that, you know, we'll ever feel safe drinking tap water again. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is.
[SUITERS] Phillips blames shale gas drilling for what happened to his water, and has initiated legal action against the driller. He believes his water problems stem from a string of gas wells less than a mile from his property, in the heart of the Marcellus Shale.
[HANGER] The Marcellus is an enormous deal, in big part because it's big. The Marcellus is the second-largest reserve of natural gas in the entire world.
[SUITERS] John Hanger saw the pros and cons of shale exploration as head of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, when the state's shale boom began. Now with a law firm, his clients include energy companies and environmental groups.
[HANGER] It's an industrial process, and it's not perfect. If we had a perfect fuel, I wouldn't be here, supporting natural gas, but we don't have a perfect fuel. Sixty percent of all our energy in the United States comes from burning coal and oil, both of which are considerably more dirty and cause far more pollution, illness, than natural gas does.
[SHERRY VARGSON, BRADFORD COUNTY LANDOWNER] We're all looking for, I think, a safe alternative and a way to get away from our dependence on foreign oil.
[SUITERS] Sherry Vargson was all ears when a gas company came calling a few years ago, asking to lease her farmland.
[VARGSON] And so when they proposed that they could explore for an energy that was not going to be environmentally hazardous -- sure!
[SUITERS] In 2007, Vargson leased to Chesapeake Appalachia, the same company operating the shale wells near the Phillips' house. The parent company is Chesapeake Energy, the nation's second-largest natural gas producer, and one of the roughly 80 companies now operating in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale.
[VARGSON] This is it, this is the well pad on our property.
[SUITERS] Is this what you expected?
[VARGSON] No, it's not. We were told that they would come in, drill, frack, the field would be reclaimed, and the rest of the field would be ours to use.
[SUITERS] She says that area now seems like an industrial site.
[VARGSON] This field had been our main pasture for our dairy herd, and with all this equipment here, we obviously can't use it for cows -- it's not safe.
[SUITERS] Tests before and after drilling showed no detectable methane in her well water. Then, about a year and a half after drilling ended, something changed.
[Vargson ignites gas coming out of faucet]
[VARGSON] Yeah, this makes me very nervous.
[SUITERS] Last summer, DEP testing showed methane levels had skyrocketed. The Department told Vargson it isn't aware of any health risks associated with methane ingestion, but, "There is a physical danger of fire or explosion due to the migration of natural gas into water wells..." The gas company, Chesapeake, installed this venting system.
So, what's keeping your house safe, theoretically, from an explosion is six feet of PVC piping, a vent, and a clamped-on rubber cuff.
[VARGSON] In theory. I've been told by several people that the flick of a light switch could cause it to ignite.
[SUITERS] Vargson blames Chesapeake for her water problems and has hired an attorney. In an e-mail response to "energyNOW!", Chesapeake says, "We do not believe our activities have impacted the Vargson water well."
Her property holds just one of Pennsylvania's 3,000 shale gas wells, most of them drilled in just the last few years. That growth has been a lifeline for some Pennsylvania farmers.
Roy Thomas's dairy farm is just a few miles from the Vargson place. He has six gas wells producing on his property, and, like many Pennsylvanians leasing their land for shale gas production, he's happy with the results.
[THOMAS] I probably wouldn't have been operating if it hadn't have came along.
[SUITERS] "It" is the gas industry. Energy company Talisman is now paying the Thomases almost $1 million a year in royalties to produce their shale gas.
[THOMAS] This year has kind of helped us keep going and refocus what we want to do with the farm, and actually gave us a chance to breathe.
[SUITERS] Thomas says his well water is fine, and his future is better than ever. The dairy farm that's been in his family for seven generations is now financially safe.
Just down the road from the farm, in downtown Towanda, the seat of Bradford County, business is booming.
[KAREN PARKHURST, RESTAURANT OWNER] We're just coming off our best year to date in the five years we've been here, and we're looking forward to just keep getting better.
[SUITERS] What's the change?
[PARKHURST] It was definitely due to the Marcellus Shale.
[SUITERS] What would business be like without that?
[PARKHURST] I don't even like to think about that right now, because I don't know where the money would come from.
[MARK SMITH (D) BRADFORD COUNTY COMMISSIONER] There are absolute positives to the economic aspects of natural gas development.
[SIGN ON SCREEN] Gas Rights? We Can Help!
[SMITH] You can see it in the unemployment numbers in the state.
[SUITERS] Mark Smith is one of three Bradford County Commissioners.
[SMITH] We've lost people in county government to the gas industry. They're offering salaries that we could never dream of paying as a county government.
[SUITERS] The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry says the shale gas industry supports nearly 220,000 jobs statewide. A welcome boon, Smith says, but not enough to offset the financial burden his county is bearing.
[SMITH] Currently, Pennsylvania doesn't tax the natural gas industry. It's a big problem for local communities that are going through this sort of development, 'cause you're dealing with an influx of people, dealing with road damage and road construction issues. It really impacts every aspect of the community.
[SUITERS] Coming up on "energyNOW!"...
[PROTESTORS, CHANTING] No free pass for oil and gas!
[SUITERS] The controversy that arises when you drill down to the shale.
[DAVID NESLIN] We have found no verified instance of hydraulic fracturing harming groundwater.
[SUITERS] What do you think caused your family's health problems?
[JODIE SIMONS] I believe it's this well.
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[SUITERS] China will produce more than half the solar panels in the entire world.
[RICHARD BRANSON] If you've got good quality batteries, you could store the wind when there's no wind, store the solar when there's no solar.
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[PROTESTORS, SHOUTING] No fracking way! No fracking way!
[SUITERS] These are the front lines in Pennsylvania's fight over fracking.
[PROTESTORS, SHOUTING] No free pass for oil and gas!
[SUITERS] Opponents of shale production congregate in the state capital of Harrisburg. They complain that Pennsylvania's government isn't protecting them, that it's letting shale gas companies run wild. Michael Krancer is the current head of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection.
Do you feel, though, to some degree, you're finding your way as a state?
[KRANCER] No, I wouldn't say that. I think -- we in Pennsylvania have had an oil and gas business for a hundred years.
[SUITERS] Shale gas business is four or five years old, right?
[KRANCER] Shale gas business is relatively new to Pennsylvania, but fracking isn't. Fracking has been done in Pennsylvania for probably 50 to 60 years.
[KLABER] I think it's been a very exciting five years, to see, you know, where we started in 2005, and where we've come.
[SUITERS] Kathryn Klaber represents a group of energy companies operating in the Marcellus Shale.
[KLABER, MARCELLUS SHALE COALITION] What we have here in this part of the country is really some of the most productive shale gas development proximate to some of the largest users and markets for the gas.
[SUITERS] But the way companies get to that gas, often more than a mile underground, that's at the center of the controversy over shale. Crews start by drilling through the aquifer and line the well with steel and cement. Then they drill horizontally into the shale. They detonate small perforating charges and pump in millions of gallons of fluid -- about 98% water, with sand and chemicals mixed in. Under immense pressure, that fluid breaks up the rock, fractures it, and releases the gas.
[TONY INGRAFFEA, PROFESSOR, CIVIL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING, CORNELL UNIVERSITY] Somewhere around 5 million gallons of frack fluid is being used in one well.
[SUITERS] Tony Ingraffea is a structural engineer and former consultant for the oil and gas industry. Now a critic, he says the industry underestimates the environmental impacts of shale production.
[INGRAFFEA] Much of that fluid comes back over the first week or two. Much more of it comes back eventually. But while that fluid, that liquid, was down there, it gathered other materials that had been stored in the shale for 350 million years.
[SUITERS] Naturally occurring materials.
[INGRAFFEA] Naturally occurring materials.
[SUITERS] Like what?
[INGRAFFEA] Salts, heavy metals, sometimes naturally occurring radioactive materials. If humans are exposed to them through drinking water, it can be dangerous.
[SUITERS] An April report from Democrats on the House Energy Committee says companies have used 750 chemicals and components in their hydraulic fracturing fluids. Some of those are harmless, like instant coffee and walnut shells. Others include benzene, a carcinogen; and xylene and toluene, hazardous wastes, according to the EPA.
But the gas industry and some politicians say the process is safe, that hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale takes place more than a mile below the aquifer level.
[SENATOR INHOFE] 35,000 wells a year, without one confirmed case of groundwater contamination.
[DAVID NESLIN, DIRECTOR, COLORADO OIL AND GAS CONSERVATION COMMISSION] We have found no verified instance of hydraulic fracturing harming groundwater.
[EPA ADMINISTRATOR LISA JACKSON] I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing.
[SUITERS] To be clear, the term "fracking" describes the process of breaking up rocks thousands of feet underground. It does not cover all the other steps in shale gas production -- drilling the well, bringing the gas out of the ground, and handling fracking fluids at the surface.
[INGRAFFEA] I'm really sorry that this whole issue has been framed with that single word, "fracking." A more accurate description of the issue is the development of natural gas from unconventional sources, such as shale.
[REPORTER, NEWSWATCH 16, WNEP, APRIL 20, 2011] A day of cleaning up at this gas drilling site...
[SUITERS] That shale development in Pennsylvania has resulted in fluid spills at the surface of some wells, leaks and overflows from tanks and pits, and blow-outs at well sites.
Are you happy with the safety record, with the environmental record so far?
[KLABER] Industrial processes in any industry sector require that constant vigilance, continuous improvement, and this industry is no different.
[SUITERS] What have you seen or heard from the Department of Environmental Protection that makes you think you're being protected?
[PHILLIPS] Very little. It took upwards of 2½ months for us to get our first results from our water test, just to say that we were contaminated and the gas-drilling industry did the damage.
[SUITERS] Pre-drilling tests revealed traces of methane in the Phillips' well. Three months later, DEP testing showed the levels had risen dramatically. And in a letter to the Phillips, the Department said, "...gas well drilling has impacted your home water supply..."
Chesapeake says it doesn't believe its drilling is to blame, but it is working with the Phillips and the state to resolve the dispute.
[PHILLIPS] Anything else that you think is in any of the drilling solutions or frack solutions that they're using?
[SUITERS] Phillips still has questions about his water quality, so he hired Jim and Garth LLewellyn, professional hydrogeologists -- water detectives, looking for whatever might be lurking in the Phillips' well.
[JIM LLEWELLYN] This is exactly what we want people to look for. This is called effervescing of water.
[SUITERS] It's bubbling up, almost like soda water.
[GARTH LLEWELLYN] Yeah, it's like seltzer water.
[SUITERS] Seltzer water, yeah. And what does that tell you about what's in this well?
[GARTH LLEWELLYN] Well, basically, it tells us that we have natural gases present.
[JIM LLEWELLYN] So, ultimately, we'll be able to tell what that gas is by sending it to the laboratory and having the laboratory analyze it.
[SUITERS] This part of Pennsylvania has a history of methane in its water wells, long before shale production began. So, when someone complains of methane contamination, it's hard to determine what's to blame. That's why companies like Appalachia Consulting are taking baseline water samples in areas where shale drilling hasn't started yet.
[GARTH LLEWELLYN] Let's figure out why these compounds may be present there naturally before the gas drilling commences. And if gas drilling does occur near those areas, could they make it worse?
[KRANCER] Well, if the cause is the shale drilling, we will do something about it.
[SUITERS] Over the last year, companies have paid out millions of dollars in state-mandated settlements and fines, among them $900,000 from Chesapeake Energy for faulty cement casing, which allowed methane to leak into private water supplies, including the Vargsons' and Phillips' water. In a written statement, Chesapeake says it agreed to pay the penalty, but disputes some of the DEP's findings. "Even though the results of our joint review remain inconclusive at this time, we believe proceeding with an agreement and taking prompt steps to enhance our casing and cementing practices and procedures was the right thing to do."
[SMITH] You mess up one water well, then it shows it can happen. And then what's the acceptable number? What's the acceptable cost to the residents here? Fifteen, twenty, thirty? How many are they allowed to screw up before we say, "Okay, enough is enough"? I think the answer is one, and we're well beyond that now.
[KRANCER] I think one is too many. I think we want zero. We want perfect. We also want perfect airline flights. We don't get that. Certainly, when we have a plane crash, we don't hear cries to stop the airline industry. So I would agree that one is too many, and we're working towards "one is too many" every single day. We are, and the industry is.
[SUITERS] Pennsylvania has enacted new regulations that mandate extra layers of steel and cement casings on shale wells, designed to prevent anything from leaving the well and entering the water table.
So it's individual points on there.
[SUITERS] But engineering professor Tony Ingraffea says better well casing regulations still won't ensure safe drinking water.
This is the ground?
[INGRAFFEA] This is the ground surface.
[SUITERS] Steel, cement, steel, cement, steel.
[INGRAFFEA] Right, so people say, "Well, there's three layers of steel and three layers of cement, how could anything get through it?" But here's the misconception. It's not materials migrating this way. [Draws horizontal line] It's materials migrating this way [Draws line from bottom to top] that's the problem. So the steel itself, the steel casing, doesn't do anything, in terms of protecting groundwater.
[SMITH] This is a problem that has continued over the course of time, that the Department of Environmental Protection really does not have a handle on, and neither do the gas companies. So when does it end, when does it stop, when are we going to say as a commonwealth that that's just not acceptable? And either drill it and do it right, or you're not drilling at all.
[SUITERS] When "energyNOW!" continues...
[DR. POUNE SABERI] For me, right now, I'm just looking for clusters.
[SUITERS] One doctor's search for answers about health concerns in Pennsylvania's shale country.
[TEXT ON SCREEN] Can I recycle a beer bottle with a lime wedge suck inside?
Natch. But limes make good compost. Just sayin'. www.grist.org
Laugh now or the planet gets it.
[GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, U.S. ARMY (RET.)] I think in the United States today, we've got an immediate opportunity because of an immediate problem.
[JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR, AVATAR] Don't listen to, you know, some, you know, talk radio guy breaking it down for you. Go and do some research yourself.
[TEXT ON SCREEN] Bradford County, PA
[SUITERS] Poune Saberi is a long way from home. For the past few months, the Philadelphia doctor has been regularly driving to shale country, visiting people concerned that shale gas production near their homes is affecting their health.
[SABERI] When did you notice the change in your water color?
[JODIE SIMONS] February 20th.
[SUITERS] Jodie Simons and her family are the latest Pennsylvanians on Dr. Saberi's call list.
[SIMONS] We're not connected to the water no more, but...
[SUITERS] According to Simons, she and both her children have had health problems in recent months, and she's worried that nearby shale production by Chief Oil & Gas is to blame.
[SIMONS] My daughter, she had bloody noses, and then Blake, he had a rash that started on the back of his head and then come around, which were, you know, blisters. And every time you bathed him in the water, they would blister up and actually break.
[SUITERS] Every time?
[SIMONS] Every time. It seemed to get worse, the more you bathed him, the worse it got.
[SUITERS] She says those symptoms disappeared after the family stopped using their well water.
What do you think caused your family's health problems?
[SIMONS] I believe it's this well.
[SUITERS] This one right here?
[SUITERS] The well was drilled two years ago, about a half-mile from Simon's home. And this past February, it was fracked for a second time. According to Simons, that's when her water changed.
[SIMONS] It all kind of lines up.
[SUITERS] Chief is now providing the family drinking water and an outdoor water tank. The company says that doesn't mean its drilling caused the water problems.
[SIMONS] And if I shake it up... It's actually literally stuck right to the bottom of the jug, but if I hold it up to the light...
[SABERI] Sure, yeah, you can see all the particles.
[SUITERS] Until Simons' family noticed the change in their well water, they still drank it, still bathed in it. She says that's when their symptoms began. Chief Oil & Gas disputes any connection, saying... "There is no scientific data or evidence to show there is any link between drilling and these type of health issues."
That's not enough to ease Simons' concerns about her children's future.
[SIMONS] This is happening now. What is it going to do to them when they're adults? You know...
[SUITERS] And there are no answers right now.
[SIMONS] No, nobody knows. You know, there's no studies on, you know, exactly what is going on and what is, you know, the long-term health effect. And I want an answer.
[SUITERS] And so does Dr. Saberi, still in the very early stages of a pilot investigation sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania.
[SABERI] Was your water gray this whole time?
[SIMONS] It fluctuated.
[SUITERS] Dr. Saberi says it's too early to call anything a cluster, but she is seeing patterns.
[SABERI] Different neighborhoods have complained of the same contaminants, so let's say one -- you go to, you know, one area and it's barium, you go to another area, it's arsenic, and one group of people are saying that it's, there are skin problems, they have rashes. One group of people are saying, you know, they have the nosebleeds, you know, that they have the neurological issues. And just kind of stepping back and looking at it, even if we find that there is no correlation, people deserve an investigation.
[INGRAFFEA] The studies haven't been done that will allow a potential landowner who wants to lease his or her land to answer the following question -- "Am I hurting my family's health, or am I hurting my neighbor's health, by doing this?" How can they answer that question? They don't know how to answer that question.
[SUITERS] Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency is in the midst of a three-year study on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water.
[PETER ROBERTSON, AMERICA'S NATURAL GAS ALLIANCE] We're actually looking forward to the study.
[SUITERS] Peter Robertson is with a natural gas trade group. He was also Deputy Administrator of the EPA during the Clinton administration.
[ROBERTSON] And our member companies are working cooperatively with EPA to try to make sure that they're able to engage in a fact-based study, because we think if there is a fact-based study conducted by EPA, that the industry certainly doesn't have anything to worry about.
[SABERI] It would be so nice to know that this is all okay, and I really believe that the burden of proving that should have fallen on the industry.
[SUITERS] The health studies are just beginning. But thousands of shale wells are already in Pennsylvania. Possibly tens of thousands are still to come. And the impacts may already be under way.
Well, if we don't know the impact of shale production on our health, are the people of Pennsylvania at risk?
[HANGER] If you're being completely, totally honest, the answer is, there is no zero risk. But the risks associated with gas drilling at this point are lower than the other options that we embrace around the country.
[SUITERS] So the needs of the many, versus the needs of the few.
[HANGER] Well, we in society often make decisions that benefit the vast majority and do have some negative impacts on others. When there are people who are negatively impacted, they ought to be compensated handsomely, so that their lives are not destroyed because the rest of society is benefiting significantly from the development of shale gas.
[SUITERS] Despite the problems at Sherry Vargson's farm -- dangerous methane levels, tainted drinking water, industrialized farmland -- given the chance, she might lease her land all over again.
But you would sign again?
[VARGSON] I would consider the option.
[VARGSON] Only because I still believe that it's a workable industry. I just think that, right now, the industry is working for profits and not for the best interest -- you know, I don't think there's a balance right now.
[SUITERS] But Mike Phillips is convinced his future lies far from shale country, far from Paradise Road.
You're thinking about leaving, how to leave town. What do you do with the beautiful house you built? Could you sell it?
[PHILLIPS] No one will buy it. No one will buy my house.
[SUITERS] Because of the water.
[PHILLIPS] Yes. Right now, I could walk away. Even though I put out a lot of sweat, tears, I could walk away. I'm -- my wife and I are so disgusted with this whole situation, that it hasn't been alleviated in a year, we just -- we want out.
[SUITERS] The debate over shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania is far from over. This past week, an industry-funded study by Penn State University said Pennsylvania could be producing nearly a quarter of the nation's natural gas by 2020. At the same time, the state's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission has recommended, among other steps, closer monitoring of health complaints from Pennsylvania residents.
But the controversy isn't confined to Pennsylvania. It's being played out in states across the country, including New York, where the state's attorney general is suing the federal government, accusing it of poor oversight, even as its governor considers allowing shale operations in certain parts of the state. And in Washington, President Obama directed the Department of Energy to set up a special safety panel on shale gas. The findings could be out as early as next month.
That's it for this week's "energyNOW!" If you want to weigh in on the shale gas controversy or on our show this week, go to our Web site, energynow.com. And we are going to continue to follow this story, both on the show and online. And you can follow us on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter. Search for us at energyNOWnews. I'm Tyler Suiters. We'll see you next week.
Tapping the energy stored in a rock formation called the Marcellus Shale has been an economic boon to Pennsylvania, but is the state paying an environmental price?
In this special report, energyNOW! Chief Correspondent Tyler Suiters interviews residents of Bradford County in northern Pennsylvania, the heart of the Marcellus Shale. The residents blame nearby gas drilling for methane contamination in their water wells, while the energy companies say they aren't responsible. One family tells Suiters they are ready to leave Pennsylvania for good because of their water problems. Suiters also meets a doctor from the University of Pennsylvania who is searching for potential links between gas drilling and health complaints.
Suiters speaks to another Bradford County resident who says income from shale-gas production saved his family farm. In the county seat of Towanda, a restaurant owner says booming shale-gas production has revived the local economy. A local politician agrees, saying the community has benefited from the jobs and higher salaries offered by the shale-gas industry. But he cautions that rural Bradford County isn't getting enough tax revenue from the gas industry to cope with the influx of people and heavy equipment. He also says he's worried about the impact of drilling on the area's water quality.
Suiters explains the combination of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," and horizontal drilling that makes the surge in shale-gas production possible. While energy companies say shale-gas drilling doesn't threaten water quality, Suiters speaks to an engineering professor who says industry officials and regulators are understating the risks. He also interviews the current and former heads of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection about the industry's safety record and the millions of dollars in settlements and fines levied against drilling companies.
Note: energyNOW!'s initial support comes from the American Clean Skies Foundation, which is funded in part by Chesapeake Energy. energyNOW! is editorially independent – neither the foundation nor its backers control what we say or do.
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