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Gas well dangers

February 21, 2014 Letters to the Editor

On Feb. 11, an explosion and fire at a shale gas well pad in Dunkard, Greene County, injured one worker and incinerated a second worker.

The photos and video footage of this fire were sobering. This accident reminds us that drilling for shale gas is an industrial process that comes with real risks from highly explosive gases and toxic chemicals. Some may say all industrial processes involve risks but I ask, should risky industrial processes be allowed to occur in most areas of our community?

Secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, Chris Abruzzo, said it was fortunate the well was in a remote area. The nearest home was more than a half-mile away. If a home had been 300 feet away — what current oil and gas regulations allow — a much more horrifying story would have been told.

Residents of townships in Butler County, where shale gas drilling is happening, should not have to depend on good fortune to protect them. Citizens look toward the good judgment of their local officials to designate areas that are off limits to all industrial processes, including shale gas drilling, that can cause the kind of fire and explosions we witnessed recently.

The property rights argument that everyone has the right to make a profit on his land must be challenged. No one has a right to endanger my health, my life and the enjoyment of my property to reap the profits of gas drilling.

I do not begrudge anyone the right to profit from their land if these activities do not put others in danger. Some say these explosions happen so infrequently, but if it happens in your community, you may regret not taking the initiative to do what is necessary to keep this highly industrial activity safely away from homes and schools.

A recent state Supreme Court decision on state Act 13 restored local control to local governments for zoning for gas drilling.

As citizens, we must petition local officials to use zoning to keep highly industrial processes like shale gas drilling and all its infrastructure like compressor stations, gas processing plants and pipelines in parts of our townships and boroughs that minimize the potential for harm to all residents.