Monday, November 17, 2008
Natural gas rush stirs environmental concerns Advanced drilling techniques that blast millions of gallons of water into 400-million-year-old shale formations a mile underground are opening up "unconventional" gas fields touted as a key to the nation's energy future. These deposits, where natural gas is so tightly locked in deep rocks that it's costly and complicated to extract, include the Barnett shale in Texas, the Fayetteville of Arkansas, and the Haynesville of Louisiana. But the mother lode is the Marcellus shale underlying the Appalachians. Geologists call the Marcellus a "super giant" gas field. Penn State geoscientist Terry Engelder believes it could supply the natural gas needs of the United States for 14 years. But as word spread over the past year that a 54,000-square-mile shale field from southern New York to West Virginia promised to yield a trillion dollars worth of gas, making millionaires of local landowners, environmental alarms were sounded. Would gas wells damage water wells? Would chemicals poison groundwater? Would fabled trout streams be sucked dry? Would the pristine upstate reservoirs that supply drinking water to New York City be befouled?...Dear Mr. & Mrs Easterner: You've been running roughshod over the West for your energy supplies for quite awhile. It's time we returned the favor.