Natural Resources Defense Coucil
July 23, 2010
Tragically, two people were killed on Friday when a gas well exploded in Indiana Township, Pennsylvania. Black smoke belched from the well for hours, and firefighters are still at the scene trying to salvage the area. The well is situated in a rural, wooded area-albeit only 15 miles northeast of Pittsburgh-keeping the human toll of this tragic accident thankfully low.
But this explosion is not an anomaly. Rather, it is the third explosion of the summer in the Marcellus Shale, and only one incident in a long list of accidents, spills, leaks, and unexplained health complaints. On June 3, a gas well in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, erupted into a 75-foot geyser of gas, wastewater, and sludge. It could not be controlled until after the well had spewed 35,000 gallons of waste, over the course of 16 hours. The company didn't install an appropriate pressure-control system-a basic safety requirement. Four days later, a Marcellus gas well in West Virginia, just southwest of Pittsburgh, exploded and severely burned seven people.
The gas industry is expanding voraciously in Pennsylvania, drilling more and more wells every day. Well pads, condensate tanks, waste pits, pipelines, and access roads are often placed only a few hundred feet from residential homes. A single well pad can contain 16 wells, spaced as little as 10 feet apart - shale gas drilling has industrialized countless acres of rural landscape and is already starting to encroach upon neighborhoods and schools. Reports of air pollution, water contamination, fish kills, livestock deaths, and health problems are piling up in Wyoming, Ohio, Colorado, West Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, and right (here) in Pennsylvania.
... The BP Gulf disaster serves as a potent reminder of the risks associated with unchecked, unregulated fossil fuel extraction. When drillers screw up, tragedies ensue.CLICK HERE to read more.