PA Dept. of Environmental Protection levies largest fine in state history against an oil or gas company

posted at 4:52 pm on May 23, 2011 by Tina Korbe

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection last week levied the largest fine in state history against an oil or gas company — more than $1 million in penalties against Chesapeake Energy, the second largest natural gas producer in the country, partly because the Department claims Chesapeake contaminated water supplies in Bradford County, Pa., and partly because of an explosion at a Chesapeake well site in Washington County, Pa., in February.

The fine comes amid ongoing controversy about the development of the Marcellus Shale formation that stretches across the western part of the state. One of the largest reservoirs of natural gas in the world, the Marcellus Shale provides Pennsylvania with significant economic benefits, even as it offers the country important energy production possibilities. But to access the natural gas, oil and gas companies have to use a process known as hydraulic fracturing — a process that poses some environmental risk. About that, local opponents say: “Don’t frack with our water!

Opponents of the mining technique of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” fear the contamination of water supplies, worried it will forever ruin small communities in the stampede of billion-dollar outsider energy corporations to make a quick buck.

Industry experts say the environmental impact neither has been nor will be as severe as opponents like to claim.

Chesapeake and the DEP have done sampling. … What we’re seeing is any environmental impact has been minimal,” hydrologist David Yoxtheimer said in a Washington Times article.

At a forum at the Carnegie Science Center last week, EQT senior vice president Lindell Bridges said the environmental risk of hydraulic fracturing is very small:

Bridges said that additional casings placed around the well’s pipeline are intended to prevent chemicals and fracking fluids from entering the aquifer. He said a “minimal” amount of chemicals is used in the fracking process.

“We are trying to fine-tune our fracking process in any way that we can,” Bridges said. “Frankly, it’s economic. The fewer chemicals needed to be used in the process the better.”

Bridges is right. Water and sand make up 98 percent of hydraulic fracturing fluid. All other chemicals amount to no more than 2 percent of the fluid. And according to the Ground Water Protection Council, the potential for fracking in deep shale natural gas and oil wells to impact groundwater is extremely remote, as low as one in 200 million.

So, it’s possible Chesapeake deserved the fine it received from the Pennsylvania DEP, but it’s still unreasonable for opponents to wish away fracking — and not merely because of jobs, although those numbers are nothing to sneeze at (50,000 new jobs in 2009 alone).

The Marcellus Shale conservatively contains 168 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, but the figure might be as high as 516 trillion cubic feet, according to Terry Engelder, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, and Gary Lash, a professor at the State University of New York. America (U.S., Canada and Mexico) currently produces roughly 30 trillion cubic feet of gas annually. Sophisticated horizontal drilling technologies, combined with hydraulic fracturing, could enable the recovery of 50 trillion cubic feet of gas just from the Marcellus.

Plus, natural gas as an energy resource really can’t be beat: According to the United States Geological Survey, it burns cleanly and emits the lowest amount of carbon dioxide per calorie of any fossil fuel.


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Frac the anti-everything Luddite Enviro-Wackos!!!

landlines on May 23, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Yoop has a huge point here, unseen.

Badger40 on May 23, 2011 at 7:06 PM

yeah it depends on how detail you think it needs to be. I see his point and agree somewhat but I also understand the level he is asking for would place most people to sleep who does not care to take a college cours eon the subject.

Basically what people want to know is does the left have some point and unlike say global warming they do have a point. the risk is small and steps can be taken to make those risks even smaller. the oil companies also have points tha tthe majority of the time it is safe and the eis no risk. Most people don’t even know the difference between sandstone and shale and why all this gas is being found in shale nor do they care. they care if their groundwater and wells will be destoryed. And the asnwer is there is a risk of that. a small one but there. which was the point I tried to get across in my orginal post on the subject….

unseen on May 23, 2011 at 7:18 PM

Yoop on May 23, 2011 at 7:13 PM

well high explosives tends to create big fractures. But oil companies do not use those to make the fractures. they use fluid mostly. and if used right they can limit the vertical fractures and increase the horizontial fractures to make the damage of going outside the geologic formation they are working with less.

unseen on May 23, 2011 at 7:23 PM

So you chose to only partially inform regarding a contentious subject where the details being argued by the general public are the problem. That is certainly your option.

But it behooves all others to judge your creditability in future posts by that decision.

Yoop on May 23, 2011 at 7:01 PM

the details aren’t the problem the problem is the politicians using the subject to inflame passions because the public does not have a baisc understanding of the subject. the public will never educate themselves to the subject because it is an involved and contentious topic with many unknowns even to the professionals. It is a new technology without a long timeframe of record. It could cause problems and it could cause problems that are not easily fixed.

So i think it is better to simply present the risks in easy to understand terms.

unseen on May 23, 2011 at 7:25 PM

It is a new technology without a long timeframe of record. It could cause problems and it could cause problems that are not easily fixed.

So i think it is better to simply present the risks in easy to understand terms.

unseen on May 23, 2011 at 7:25 PM

This is blatant misinformation. Why don’t you just stop.

( The info shown below doesn’t even cover the hydro fracturing used in in situ leaching of metal deposits)

From Wiki:

Hydraulic fracturing for stimulation of oil and natural gas wells was first used in the United States in 1947.[11][12] It was first used commercially by Halliburton in 1949,[11] and because of its success in increasing production from oil wells was quickly adopted, and is now used worldwide in tens of thousands of oil and natural gas wells annually. The first industrial use of hydraulic fracturing was as early as 1903, according to T.L. Watson.[13]

Yoop on May 23, 2011 at 7:59 PM

Yoop on May 23, 2011 at 7:59 PM

from your same link

Certain reservoirs such as the Bakken, Barnett Shale, Montney and Haynesville Shale cannot be produced using conventional methods. These formations have begun using high tech completion systems capable of mechanically fracturing at certain intervals. An alternative to the plug and perf method, multi-stage fracturing systems are capable of stimulating several stages in a single day. Compared to the weeks required by the plug and perf method, cost-effective multi-stage completion systems are quickly becoming sought after technology by oil and natural gas companies

unseen on May 23, 2011 at 8:25 PM

unseen on May 23, 2011 at 8:25 PM

You have a reading comprehension problem. I can’t help you with that.

Yoop on May 23, 2011 at 8:31 PM

Let the hicks run their homes, businesses and cars on “clean” water then.

Let them walk a picket line or the unemployment lines instead….50,000 of them.

Hell…what water in this country is truly “clean” anyway?

Twana on May 23, 2011 at 8:31 PM

You have a reading comprehension problem. I can’t help you with that.

Yoop on May 23, 2011 at 8:31 PM

of course I point out from your same link why the shale drilling is considered new technology. and if you read further from the source you cite (but not link) you will also see why it has a short timeframe of record on its impacts to the environmets from the chemicals used to the process being employed. wiki is of course a source that leans left so i don’t take much from them but since you brought it into the discussion it is fair game and the information they give on the EPA and other groups findings and studies show the jury is still out on what record this process has.

And by doing all that you question my reading comprehension. gotcha

I used your link to show that It is a new technology without a long timeframe of record

you accused me of sowing misinformation. I showed it is not. In this thread you have attacked me personally several times and have never addressed the issues raised why is that? Your holier than thou act is getting old.

unseen on May 23, 2011 at 8:48 PM

This action by PA is actually the right approach. The problem with fracing failures is usually poor fracking crews or poor procedures. Require adequate training, licensing and fines and license revocations for the few % of the crews/companies that cause most of the problem and things will work themselves out. The wrong approach is what the Obama administation did in the Gulf where they not only shut down the bad actors, they shut down the whole industry.

KW64 on May 23, 2011 at 9:12 PM

Industry experts say the environmental impact neither has been nor will be as severe as opponents like to claim.

I have no problem with fracking and its effective use in certain areas which suit the method… but when it goes wrong and ruins residential areas like it has in PA the responsible parties should be accountable. There are success stories in the natural gas industry as well as blunders. Clearly the process does pose long term risks in certain areas which need to be understood and avoided.

lexhamfox on May 23, 2011 at 9:21 PM

Let the hicks run their homes, businesses and cars on “clean” water then.

Let them walk a picket line or the unemployment lines instead….50,000 of them.

Hell…what water in this country is truly “clean” anyway?

Twana on May 23, 2011 at 8:31 PM

It makes property worthless. The damage impacts local businesses as well as residential homes. There are intelligent arguments for natural gas… yours isn’t one of them.

lexhamfox on May 23, 2011 at 9:26 PM

you accused me of sowing misinformation. I showed it is not. In this thread you have attacked me personally several times and have never addressed the issues raised why is that? Your holier than thou act is getting old.

unseen on May 23, 2011 at 8:48 PM

I addressed the scientific issues that you glossed over, or misrepresented. Others noted the same issues with your descriptions as being incomplete or misinforming. They understood my points, so that would suggest you did not. Do I need to cut-and-paste their comments for you?

The additional link info that you provided from Wiki only indicates that the companies are using refinements and improvements to a long existing technology. And of course they would pursue “cost-effective multi-stage completion systems are quickly becoming sought after technology by oil and natural gas companies”. That was an open-ended comment that describes any technology, be it fracking, or other. That’s how they stay in business.

What you were/are partaking in is what we refer to as “peripheral expertise”. If you don’t care to be totally accurate, then don’t claim you are.

Yoop on May 23, 2011 at 9:42 PM

What you were/are partaking in is what we refer to as “peripheral expertise”. If you don’t care to be totally accurate, then don’t claim you are.

Yoop on May 23, 2011 at 9:42 PM

I learned a while back, if you really don’t fully understand what you’re talking about, don’t propose to instruct others.
+10

Badger40 on May 23, 2011 at 10:20 PM

I learned a while back, if you really don’t fully understand what you’re talking about, don’t propose to instruct others.
+10

Badger40 on May 23, 2011 at 10:20 PM

Well said. I learned that lesson early on and it was a humbling trip to the Director’s wood shed.

Thanks…

Yoop on May 23, 2011 at 10:36 PM

Clean water is overrated…Libtard, Commie nonsense. I remember the days I had to drink water out of a muddy hoof print and was glad to have it!

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 23, 2011 at 11:42 PM

Libtards don’t know what is and isn’t clean water. Most of them get upset when you tell them that their drinking water contains quite a bit of dihydrogen monoxide.

blink on May 24, 2011 at 12:01 AM

The problem begins when one adds a straight-chain alcohol such as Ethanol to that dihydrogen monoxide. It has been known to cause slurred speech, slowed reflexes, compromised decision making, and can even cause Liberal women to look attractive in the early hours of the morning. Insidious stuff!

Yoop on May 24, 2011 at 1:24 AM

I live in a small town in north central PA, and know people who already cannot drink their well water because of contaminants from fraccing.

And there should be an extraction fee, here, just as there is in nearly every other state where oil or gas is produced.

The country needs the energy, certainly, and I am happy there is such a close-to-home alternative, but the aftermath cannot be poisoned wells and ruined groundwater.

Siddhartha Vicious on May 24, 2011 at 5:33 AM

Volcanoes, geysers. Limiting flow to gravity is pretty naive and silly.

jdkchem on May 23, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Geysers don’t flow multiple thousands of feet, and as with volcanoes, are caused by an entirely different phenomenon, where the molten rock finds a weak spot in the crust and encroaches on the surface of the earth.

Vashta.Nerada on May 24, 2011 at 8:56 AM

I live in a small town in north central PA, and know people who already cannot drink their well water because of contaminants from fraccing.

Siddhartha Vicious on May 24, 2011 at 5:33 AM

Maybe they can’t drink their water, but it is unrelated to fracturing. There has never been a case where fracturing chemicals got into the water supply. There are wells where surface leaks of oil have descended to the water table, but that was due to poor surface facilities, not fracturing.

Vashta.Nerada on May 24, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Ask your students if they’ve ever seen Erin Brockovich. Then ask them if they knew that epidemiologists have concluded that no excess amount of cancer was developed in the area of believed contamination. In other words, Erin Brockovich was wrong.

blink on May 24, 2011 at 12:28 AM

This gives me an idea. I should show the kids the movie & survey them afterwords & then instruct them on the facts of the situation & then survey them again.
I do a lot of things like this in my class.
I like to present the banning of dihydrogen monoxide to my freshmen as a dangerous chemical.
We read a little fact sheet concerning it & have a discussion. They get really passionate about it!
Some of the kids, usually a promising majority, are very skeptical & ask for more information like studies & such.
When I reveal to them it’s water, you should see their faces!

I live in a small town in north central PA, and know people who already cannot drink their well water because of contaminants from fraccing.

And there should be an extraction fee, here, just as there is in nearly every other state where oil or gas is produced.

The country needs the energy, certainly, and I am happy there is such a close-to-home alternative, but the aftermath cannot be poisoned wells and ruined groundwater.

Siddhartha Vicious on May 24, 2011 at 5:33 AM

How do you know? Did you scientifically study this issue?
What were the illnesses involved?
Were there similar illnesses before the fraccing?
What were the incidences afterword?
Word of mouth & people you know saying stuff is not evidence of cause & effect.
It may seem like it is to you, but understand that coincidences are usually just that: coincidences & nothing more.

Badger40 on May 24, 2011 at 8:59 AM

Interesting reading about the number of sources of “stray gas” when you start looking into the studies, papers and workshops:

http://pa.water.usgs.gov/projects/energy/oil_gas/

Yoop on May 24, 2011 at 9:33 AM

Coincidentally my dad just sent me a video… all you need to know about fracking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lJa7edRJw0

Ok, not really. But when you’re looking for people who are fracking experts, or people complaining about companies fracking their gashole… this may be worth watching.

Not quite a language warning, but funny like I recall SNL used to be.

gekkobear on May 24, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Most frac companies now test surrounding water BEFORE they frac a well. Then, they show the locals all the contaminates already in the water.

blink on May 24, 2011 at 11:57 AM

Absolutely necessary in any and all exploration and extraction projects, today, to construct a baseline water quality model. Doesn’t matter whether it’s an oil, gas metallic or industrial mineral project.

People assume their wells are free of contaminates so any that show up have to be the fault of the evil ______ company.

I’ve had people refuse access to their wells for quality measurements, and actually had one fellow purposefully “degrade” his well to set himself up for a law suit. His problem was that he didn’t understand our work process and claimed we had polluted his well, before we had actually commenced any rock work. He simply ended up with an unusable well for a bit.

Yoop on May 24, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Clean water is overrated…Libtard, Commie nonsense.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 23, 2011 at 11:42 PM

Libtards don’t know what is and isn’t clean water. Most of them get upset when you tell them that their drinking water contains quite a bit of dihydrogen monoxide.

blink on May 24, 2011 at 12:01 AM

And don’t forget the insidious hydronium ions and heavy water deuterons!

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 24, 2011 at 4:23 PM

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