Separating gas drilling fact from fiction – study is a good first step

The participants at the recent Congressional Natural Gas Caucus hearings recently at Pennsylvania College of Technology said the economic impact of shale production is a “game changer.”

That’s hardly a surprising observation coming from a largely pro-gas industry gathering, but the economic realities of recent years support the conclusion.

Without the Marcellus Shale drilling boom in our region the effects of the recession of recent years would have been devastating. With that boom, the region is competing and at least holding its own. That’s an accomplishment, given the amount of resistance, rumor mongering and twisting of facts that the industry has had to endure, a reality not lost on those at the caucus.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Howard Republican representing some of our region, said lawmakers need correct information to make responsible decisions about the gas industry, particularly scientific data. Unfortunately, lawmakers get a lot of misinformation that, over time proves to be inaccurate.

A good example involves hydraulic fracturing, which is routinely blamed for contaminating drinking water. A landmark federal study recently completed shows no evidence that chemicals from natural gas drilling contaminated drinking water aquifiers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site.

The Department of Energy results came after a year of monitoring and represent the first independent look at whether the potentially toxic chemicals used in fracking pose a threat to people during normal drilling operations.

By injecting fluids tagged with unique markers more than 8,000 feet below the surface at the gas well bore, researchers were able to establish that potentially dangerous substances stayed about a mile away from surface drinking water supplies, which are usually about 500 feet below the surface. We would prefer that scientific information such as this be favored by the general public over the agenda-laden film-making that has been passing for fact among the anti-drilling crowd for years.

Correct environmental regulations must be meticulously and fairly enforced and information gathering continued to assure an ongoing, safe drilling process. If that path is followed, the economic game-changing outlined at the caucus is there for the region to take.