I applaud the Butler Eagle for its coverage of the recent public meeting about the well pads proposed for the Krendale Golf Course (“Krendale Golf Course fracking event draws a crowd,” April 15, Page D5).
However, providing the chief spokesman of the Marcellus Shale Coalition the opportunity to rebut these concerns amounts to free promotion of the industry. As is typical for David Spigelmyer, he’s relied on selective data and preliminary studies. He continues to promote the industry’s mantra of jobs, energy independence and environmental benefits.
Let’s look at the facts as they tell a different story. Between 2004, when the first Marcellus well was drilled, and the end of 2016 there were 9,442 complaints filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. That’s almost one complaint per well. More than 4,100 of those were related to water issues.
Spigelmyer has refused to accept that any of these were due to drilling. Energy independence?
We’re exporting natural gas to Japan and ethane to Europe, with major pipelines for export being built. Those jobs? The industry promised 200,000 but the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry says it’s fewer than 20,000. That’s still jobs, but many go to out-of-state contractors, which is why we still see out-of-state license plates in Butler. The industry does employ 203 lobbyists in Harrisburg (one for each representative), which could be why we can’t get a severance tax passed. So is it any wonder people are concerned? How can you trust an industry, and their spokesman, insisting that there’s nothing to worry about?
One of the enduring myths is that these wells will last 50 years. In reality, they are most productive in the first five years. More than 100 of the Marcellus wells that have been drilled in Washington County are now plugged or aren’t producing. And it’s not just Washington County. I have interviewed farmers in Bradford County that now have to pay the drilling company because so little gas is being produced their royalties don’t cover the production costs.
How can Spigelmyer say that Butler County only benefits from shale gas operations when there are 50 families in the Woodlands that still don’t have access to potable water? It’s been seven years. I’m sure he’s never visited them. I have. He quotes a comment from the Department of Health that they are unaware of health issues, but it’s from 2012. A quick check of the Department of Health website today shows it now lists 20 peer reviewed studies on health issues related to fracking operations. And I don’t imagine that he’s read the recently released “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms from Fracking” from the Physicians for Social Responsibility. If he did examine the facts and the science, they reveal an industry that continues to ignore the health and environmental impacts. Until the industry and the Marcellus Shale Coalition in particular recognize there are issues, we should all be worried.
The writer is a professor of biological sciences and director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University. He adds the disclaimer: My opinions, however, are not necessarily those of the university nor am I submitting this letter on their behalf.