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Carnegie Science Center Hosts Marcellus Shale Talk

Vice president of Pittsburgh-based EQT says environmental threats linked to drilling have been exaggerated.

Concerns over the environmental impact of Marcellus Shale gas drilling have been overstated, an official from a Pittsburgh-based natural gas company said last weekat a public forum at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Side.

Lindell Bridges, the senior vice president for geoscience at EQT, fielded questions about the region's burgeoning drilling industry during "Drilling Down on the Marcellus Shale: Energy Potential" at the center.  Audience members had the chance to question Bridges about how drilling will impact the Pittsburgh region in decades to come. 

Bridges touted the long-term benefits of drilling, telling the audience that Western Pennsylvania sits on one of the largest reservoirs of natural gas in the world. Tapping that resource may be an economic boon for the region, creating jobs and providing a new source of energy, he said. 

But many of those in attendance expressed skepticism about the environmental hazards that the drilling process could pose in western Pennsylvania, including the potential contamination of drinking water.

"There's a great economic impact to Marcellus Shale," Bridges said. "We're sending a lot of money overseas right now and a lot of that money is for oil." 

Drilling companies have employed new methods in recent years to tap pockets of natural gas trapped deep underground in the Marcellus Shale formation that stretches throughout much of western Pennsylvania. 

New techniques such as hydro-fracturing, a process in which pressurized water, sand and chemicals are injected into a well to increase the flow of the natural gas, have increased productivity. That process also has spurred concerns from environmental advocates and property owners that chemicals could seep into the ground and drinking water.

Audience members repeatedly pressed Bridges during the question-and-answer session about the long-term effects of Marcellus Shale drilling and the possibility of water contamination.

"I just don't understand how before drilling the water is fine and then afterward it isn't," said one audience member, saying her research has turned up accounts of contamination in others areas where drilling took place. "How do you ensure that it doesn't go into the aquifer?" 

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." 

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato has in using some of the 9,000 acres of county-owned land surrounding the Pittsburgh International Airport for drilling. 

"We're are trying to mitigate people's concerns with things like better well construction," Bridges said. "The process is now much more efficient."

Concerned Consumer May 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Yes, it does pose an environmental risk and the benefits are overstated. The industry facts and numbers are all suspect. Their own reports show discrepencies in their disclosures. The original SGEIS report has the chemicals listed going into the process in Chapt. 5 pg. 30 - 65, but the DEC reported Chromium 6 when they tested the frack fluid on pg. 102. The industry claims all of this job creation, Brad Gill of IOGA NY claimed PA had 48,000 new jobs for 2010, but labor board only states 23,000 in the entire natural resource and mining industry and that inlcudes logging, coal mining, and DEP personnel. All other indirect labor was down year-over-year by 2%. Most jobs go to Texans and they are all temporary. Total tax revenue for Pensylvania related to the Marcellus shale exploitation since 2006 was only 1.1 billion, and that included all indirect companies such as sand and lumber, sales tax, and employee income withholding. Only 178 out of 900 companies paid corporate income taxes. These numbers are from the Pennsylvania state department of revenue and were released on May 1st, 2011.
dana May 22, 2011 at 04:04 PM
We need more people out there like you, concerned consumer. Thank you for getting out facts, not talking points!
FrackTrack May 23, 2011 at 01:46 PM
There are presently 6,537 active Marcellus shale wells permitted in pennsylvania. Between 2008 and 2010 the Department of Environmental Protection inspected 35% of the Marcellus Shale permits issued during that period. With a statewide inspection to violation ratio of 2.04 violations per inspection, how many more violations are waiting to be found? This data and more is available at http://www.fracktrack.org. Sign up today and stay informed.
B Rezvan May 25, 2011 at 02:16 AM
Which science center was this again??

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