Decade of study shows state’s environment, natural gas industry can live together

Energy companies have drilled more than 11,000 wells since the natural gas industry arrived in the state in 2008, making Pennsylvania the nation’s No. 2 gas-producing state after Texas.

We well remember the environmental horror stories that were told as the drilling began in earnest.

There were going to be explosions and contamination of the state’s water supply.

The drain on the water supplies was going to turn Pennsylvania into an arid wasteland.

Fast forward 10 years to the actual experience of a decade of natural gas drilling.

The story does not match the horrific predictions.

Two studies that look at groundwater chemistry did not find much of an impact from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – fracking – the much-criticized techniques that allow energy companies to extract huge volumes of oil and gas from shale rock deep underground.

The results suggest that groundwater supplies have held their own as the gas industry has drilled the Marcellus Shale, a rock layer more than a mile underground that holds the nation’s largest reservoir of natural gas.

And while methane levels spiked in some water wells, that was attributed to natural variability, not fracking or drilling.

What all this means is that the drilling can be environmentally safe. The safeguards that are being used are necessary, but all evidence suggests they are working and the industry and environment can coexist.

We will restate what we have said dozens of times during the past decade. The industry’s feet need to be held to the environmental regulation fire.

But as long as that is done and enforcement of regulations is fair, there is no reason the gas industry and Pennsylvania’s extraordinary environment can’t live together.