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Published: April 3, 2014 print this article Print save this article Save email this article Email ENLARGE TEXT increase font decrease font

Enviro-scare tactics

The constant stream of anti-fracking and anti-natural gas development letters to the editor is becoming progressively more irritating and frustrating to me. These emotionally blinded and irrational pundits need a reality check. They produce a constant stream of “sky is falling” statements, loads of disinformation that displays their ignorance, and phrases designed to scare unwary citizens, with the presumed goal of stopping all drilling operations and gas production in Pennsylvania. It’s not going to happen folks.
A hard-core example, written by Joseph P. McMurry (“Fracking dollars”, March 10), critiques City Council’s plan “to drill and frack for natural gas under Memorial Park.” Keep in mind that there is no plan to drill from a well pad located in Memorial Park. This is an example of disinformation and scare tactics. If the council decides to lease park lands for horizontal drilling and fracturing from a well pad outside the park on private lands, there is no reason for concern. Why? Because there is no connection whatever between the land surface in Memorial Park and the gas-bearing shales of the Marcellus Formation, which are separated by more than a mile of solid rock. If no leasing takes place, some of the gas will be removed anyway (lost to nearby well sites) and the only losers will be the citizens of Butler, who will end up with nothing.
The writer points out there have been “161 documented cases of shale gas drilling causing well-water contamination... .” Is that 161 water wells or 161 gas wells? If it is 161 gas wells, then that is 2-3 percent of all wells drilled. That is hardly a “sky is falling” statistic. He then points out that “$2.5 million in fines were levied against drillers by DEP in the past year.” A legitimate question would be to ask what the fines were for — significant pollution events or simple “housekeeping” problems.
The writer alerts us that airborne toxins and carcinogens are emitted by gas wells and pipelines. What toxins and carcinogens? Name some. What concentration? Parts per billion? What are EPA’s safe limits? If a toxin is detected, but if its concentration is still below safe limits, it is a non-problem.
Many of these anti-Marcellus spinners also lament flaring gas wells as a source of air pollution that will affect our children (the ultimate scare tactic cliche). Burning natural gas — methane CH4 — produces two gases: water vapor and carbon dioxide. Which of these two is toxic or causes cancer? These two gases are exactly what you exhale when you breathe.
McMurray lays all these threats and misdeeds on the search for the “almighty fracking dollar.” How awful! This is reminiscent of the 1960s attitude that profit is a dirty word. It isn’t. We live in a capitalistic system where profit is front and center and achievable by all of us, not to mention that pension checks rely on the profits of successful companies.
To demand a ban of all Marcellus or Utica drilling in Pennsylvania is irrational, unlikely and unnecessary. We can, however, demand responsible drilling. Call your legislator and say so.




Charles H. Shultz Ph.D., Geology
Boyers
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