Monday, August 29, 2011

Frackville, Pennsylvania - REVISIT

Posted June 8, 2010

Welcome to Frackville: Natural Gas Drilling Threatening Communities

On June 3, about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a natural gas well “blowout” shot natural gas and drilling fluids 75 feet into the air and onto the ground. As the name makes clear, a “blowout” is the industry’s term for a surge of pressurized oil or gas that causes an eruption -- basically the same thing that caused the explosion and fire at BP’s Deep Horizon offshore drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. Fortunately, there were no injuries from the natural gas blowout. But that doesn't minimize the potential dangers.

“The event at the well site could have been a catastrophic incident that endangered life and property,” John Hanger, secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, said in a statement to reporters. “This was not a minor accident, but a serious incident that will be fully investigated by this agency with the appropriate and necessary actions taken quickly.”

Just yesterday there was another explosion 55 miles south of Pittsburgh, in West Virginia, when a crew digging a natural gas well hit a pocket of methane. Also yesterday, in Texas, one worker was killed and several injured when a natural gas pipeline erupted.

On the same day as the blowout last week, I happened to be touring natural gas development not too far away in upstate Pennsylvania. I was in the bucolic township of Dimock, northwest of Scranton, accompanied by NRDC experts and colleagues from the Waterkeeper Alliance. We met with local residents who have learned by hard experience that natural gas drilling is a threat not just to their rural way of life but also to their water supply and their health.

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