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Article published April 17, 2014
Let’s clear the air
Michael Johnson Vice President, Appalachia Division XTO Energy, Warrendale
Regarding the news story “People voice well worries” (April 8, page 1). XTO Energy has firsthand experience working with Butler County communities. Over the past few years, our company has managed a variety of operations safely and responsibly in 11 Butler County townships. Our Appalachian headquarters is based nearby. To date, however, no work has been done in Franklin Township, which may be why residents have questions about the oil and gas drilling process. We work hard to be responsive to community concerns, and to answer any and all questions residents may have about our operations — including effects on air and water, which are understandable concerns. Just this month, on April 3, the Department of Environmental Protection released its annual report of natural gas drilling emissions inventory data. That report notes that since 2008, when unconventional drilling began here, conventional cumulative air contaminant emissions across the state have continued to decline. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from electric generating units, as well as particulate matter, have dropped significantly. DEP acknowledges the steady rise in the production and development of natural gas, and the greater use of cleaner-burning natural gas, are among the factors responsible for the decline. Water resources are protected through strictly regulated exploration and production practices that make Marcellus Shale extraction environmentally safe. XTO meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements. A landmark U.S. Department of Energy study on hydraulic fracturing shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process contaminate drinking water aquifers. These findings mirror the conclusions of other research. Moreover, a complete list of the chemicals used in fracturing is available on DEP’s website. Additional safeguards, such as recycling wastewater and strengthening well casings, provide additional barriers to protect water resources. Presently, drilling regulations in Pennsylvania are among the strictest in the nation. And in communities where we operate, local regulations also apply. In the case of Franklin Township, XTO would need an approved land development plan before any work could begin. XTO’s more than 200 employees, including myself, remain committed to meeting the highest environmental standards and achieving the highest performance levels that communities have come to expect from our operations.