Monday, February 07, 2011

Fracking debate moves into Maryland and Virginia

Most of the Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing controversy has been focused on Pennsylvania and New York, but now similar arguments are popping up in Maryland and Virginia. Land speculators arrived in Garrett County, Md., in 2008 to begin exploration of Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves in the region. Just like that, the 29,000-person county, "joined Rockingham County, Va., as local Washington-area governments fully engaged in the nation's debate over hydraulic drilling for natural gas and its risk of contaminating drinking water," Darryl Fears of The Washington Post reports.

At least one environmental group says the drilling technique may have negative impacts on the drinking water for Washington, D.C. "It's an issue for the Chesapeake Bay that impacts Washington, D.C.," Jessie Thomas-Blate, who monitors endangered rivers for American Rivers. "If you contaminate people's water, you can't go back." Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute maintains "fracking" is "a tried-and-true technology that promises thousands of new jobs and vast and indispensable supplies of clean-burning energy," but American Rivers cautions the "very briny wastewater" created by the process can leak into drinking water.

Last year, Maryland refused to issue drilling permits to two companies in Garrett County until studies determine that drinking water will not be harmed. County officials say that decision caused companies to cancel land leases worth millions of dollars to area farmers, Fears writes. Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy looked past concerns from the Rockingham County commissioner in approving one oil and gas company to drill a single exploratory well. Maryland Democratic state delegate Heather Mizeur is preparing legislation to ban fracking until the safety of the process is confirmed. "We expect robust support," she said. "The fuel source isn't bad, we're just concerned about the extraction method." (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just read a concedely 1-sided regional news summary @ which nonetheless appears to make alot of sense in view of the points related on this blog:

Texas oilman and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens is a major financier and evangelist of natural gas exploration across the United States, from the Haynesville Shale to the Marcellus. He claims that natural gas paves the road to energy independence in his Pickens Plan4." He says that it's "green," and it seems he came to this realization right around the time his oil wells stopped being productive. Interestingly, according to BusinessWeek, "Pickens owns more water than any other individual in the U.S. and is looking to control even more5." So, if all goes according to his Plan, groundwater across the country will end up contaminated by the energy we buy from him, but he will be able to sell us all the clean water we need. Pickens Plan? We say slim pickings, man!


You can either drill, frack, and extract for a decade or two while neglecting the need for renewable energy development and deployment, or just skip the wasteful and dangerous extraction process altogether by funding and enabling renewable energy research, development, and production now. Why wait? Switching lanes could actually make up the loss of the big annual payday associated with these natural gas plays over time, not to mention provide a huge reduction in external costs and the associated legal and regulatory risks. Did you know that you could now harvest methane from landfills and sewage sludge? It would be a PR dream for your companies if the biggest domestic side-effect of your production process in our neck of the woods was getting rid of that odor in Jersey. What's more, couldn't you repurpose much of your existing equipment to, say, install geothermal heat pumps, or use old drilling rigs as towers for industrial wind turbines, or even apply horizontal drilling techniques to create minimally-obtrusive paths for cable runs to get all this renewable energy from point of capture to point of use? That would yield revenue in perpetuity, paying off less up front but more valuable in the long-term. The NPV analysis is up to you, but that perpetuity formula is pretty attractive.