Thursday, October 22, 2009

Marcellus Shale Natural Gas

AAEA opposes drilling in the New York City watershed to produce natural gas from the underground Marcellus Shale layer. AAEA believes this activity could threaen New York City's drinking water supply and it simply is not worth the risk.

AAEA-NY wants regulators to amend current state rules to bar drilling in the New York City watershed: a million acres of forests and farmlands whose streams supply the reservoirs that send drinking water to eight million people. Accidental leaks could threaten public health and require a filtration system the city can ill afford. State officials worry that if they deny landowners the right to lease the mineral resources under their property — 70 percent of the watershed is privately owned — they will face expensive “takings” claims. But the state has a right and responsibility to prevent drilling that poses a clear danger to public health.

Marcellus Shale is a subterranean layer of rock curving northward from West Virginia through Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York’s southern tier. The shale contains deposits of natural gas that could add to the region’s energy supplies. The process of extracting it, however, is not risk-free. Known as hydraulic fracturing, it involves shooting a mix of water, sand and chemicals — many of them highly toxic — into the ground at very high pressure to break down the rock formations and free the gas. The technique is used in 90 percent of the oil and gas operations in the United States. And while most drilling occurs without incident, “fracking” has been implicated in hundreds of cases of impaired or polluted drinking water supplies in states from Alabama to Wyoming.

The dangers are particularly acute in the Marcellus Shale, which, unlike the relatively shallow formations found elsewhere, lies miles underground. Getting the gas out will require far more water and heavy doses of chemicals. (NYT, 10/16/09)

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