Did you hear about the well that blew out, spewing poisonous fossil fuel all over the place?
No, I don’t mean the Deepwater Horizon. I mean the natural gas well that blew out June 3 in the state next door to ours, a state which New York’s leaders seem eager to emulate in its welcome of the gas rush.
The gas well dug by EOG Resources in Clearfield County, Pa., “sent natural gas and at least 35,000 gallons of drilling wastewater into the sky and over the ground for 16 hours,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
“The leak began at approximately 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 3, when the well’s operators lost control of it while preparing to extract gas after fracking [horizontal drilling] the shale,” the agency said in a news release. “As a result, natural gas and flowback frack fluid was released uncontrollably onto the ground and 75 feet into the air. The well was capped at around noon on June 4.”
The DEP suspended all natural gas drilling by EOG Resources — formerly known, by the way, as Enron Oil & Gas Co. The blowout (due to a failed blowout preventor) occurred about seven weeks after the DEP fined another gas driller, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., $240,000 for contaminating the drinking water of 14 homes in Dimock Township, Pa. Cabot “chose to ignore its responsibility to safeguard the citizens of this community and to protect the natural resources there,” Environmental Protection secretary John Hanger declared.
Stuff like this is the reason the Delaware River was declared the most endangered river in the country last week by the watchdog group American Rivers. The Delaware is right in the middle of the Marcellus Shale region, which is thought to hold a vast reservoir of natural gas that can only be extracted by a drilling method that uses huge amounts of water and holds the potential for devastating pollution.
While New York finalizes its own rules for natural gas drilling and gets ready to issue a slew of permits, the energy industry is proving again and again, right across the state line, that it cannot be trusted to protect natural resources.
American Rivers wants New York to refuse to grant natural gas drilling permits until the federal government issues a report on “fracking.” So does the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, which on the same day the well blew out in Pennsylvania approved a moratorium on gas drilling, pending the federal report. The Assembly and Senate should pass this bill into law, with or without the governor’s support.
Of course, all of this is easy for me to say as I type away on a computer running on AC power generated by burning oil. I hear the news from the Gulf of Mexico on the car radio as I’m driving to the Adirondacks to go fishing, burning a gallon of gas every 20 miles.
We should fight the industrialization of the countryside and the threat to our trout waters, to say nothing of our homes and communities. But let’s also recognize that the gas rush is a consequence of our own addiction to fossil fuel. Our trout streams and our quality of life won’t be safe until we get serious about conservation and renewable energy.