June 9, 2010
Members of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee were told today that local natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale will likely produce more above-ground emergency incidents—many stemming from human error—and social effects arising from an influx of drilling workers.
The gas drilling, Dr. Them said, boils down to a matter of risk versus benefit. With the highly concentrated natural gas supply in the Marcellus shale, he cautioned that too much political pressure exists for the gas not to be extracted: “The question is not ‘if’, it’s ‘when’,” he said, “…the trick is getting it out safely.” While much focus has been on chemical hazards, the doctor suggested that “most problems will be above ground”—related to aspects includin transportation, deliveries, and dilution of substances. And he predicted that most hazards “are going to be people, rather than chemicals” related to human error, since “mistakes kill.” He advised that the drilling will produce “what you have now, but a lot more of it”—more people, traffic, movement, trucks, and accidents.
Based on his experience in other locations, Dr. Them advised that an
influx of new workers will create social issues such as increased
crime, drug and alcohol problems, traffic, housing shortages, school
overcrowding, poaching, and the related effects to an infusion of new
money to landowners, including an increased number of scam artists. Of the workers who will come in to drill the gas, Them said, “These are hardened, tough, heavy-duty people who are used to a hard life,” with “enough bad apples to create a problem.” ...
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