Gas firms get environmental warning as Marcellus drilling grows was an article I sat aside and today I picked it up again. As I was rereading this article written by Rick Stouffer on May 4, 2010 about a Marcellus Shale meeting held at Duquesne University. I was at first amused, then angered by the repeated comments made by John Hanger, PA Department of Environmental Protection Secretary about the 180,000 acres of abandoned mine lands and the Acid Mine Discharge or Drainage (AMD) overwhelming the commonwealths streams and rivers.
Two items are being misrepresented, the ability for AMD clean up and DEP understanding of well sites versus coal mining sites.
The Coal Companies have a name change and ownership swap that made for a lack of accountability regarding the treatment, expense and care of water from the sites. The Marcellus drill sites are not like the free flowing ground water of the AMD lands. They DEP have a solution for AMD, they dare not use it, and it would eliminate their power and position. The DEP states a century to clean up and educated people sit there and takes in the notions of this protection group. Watershed groups have been given the duty to handle and treat the AMD and grants are given with conditions like a certain amount of people needed to test and sample, a certain number of DEP officials are needed to certify tests and no monthly operating budgets are allowed, lump-sum requests. So the state takes acres of land and allows water to settle in a passive treatment basin.
Our firm has meet with the DEP, provided trials and have successfully cleaned the water in moments not months or years. I have boxes of letters, proposals and results to document our involvement. Kathleen McGinty was the DEP head during our major work and we even restored fish, plant life that was thought lost to the AMD. We offered a plan to create energy from a process, which included switch grass, and by-products from our process. Active treatment versus the DEP preferred Passive treatment makes Hangers argument as diluted as the toilet water received at treatment centers
It is a disgrace and mis-representation to state, “Unless steps are taken to protect the state's environment, development of Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves could overwhelm its benefits” Hanger said at the event co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. This group goes un-regulated or checked and are stone walling the Natural Gas Industry, which has a different site and circumstance then the Coal Mining Companies.
The natural gas drilling industry does follow laws and regulations put in place to protect water used in the drilling process; they are working hard to establish best management practices. The claim made by Hanger regarding the gas industry that self-regulation doesn't work means he wants more hand holding and more reporting then the existing process which requires DEP folks on site for various stages in the well-site development cycle. I hope the gas industry has people audit or investigate this non-accountable organization that costs us a fortune. The late Rep. John Murtha also mishandled federal funds given the commonwealth to handle AMD, where are the dollars and what are they doing?
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is a consortium of Water Shed Groups, I urge the Marcellus friendly folks to establish there own 501c3 and start their own Water Shed Organization and show the others how it is handled in the real world and do it well.
Using the same logic as Hanger, it is inexcusable that we still have 180,000 acres of abandoned mine lands that probably will take a century to clean up, and 5,000 miles of streams impacted by acid mine drainage. The guilt implication made by Hanger charging, “and in each case, there was a company responsible for the problem," who let those other businesses of the hook?
Hanger has the fix it just would require him to loss his job, there would be nothing to complain about except fishing with a proper license.
Public policy, laws and regulations on the books years ago weren't enough to make coal mining companies clean up their collective mess, said Hanger, but the agencies failures should not be projected on a new industry that operates under different circumstances.
My purpose is not to lament the past but look forward to creating a positive business environment where energy, environment and jobs are cared for while holding off those who have energy to oppose good sense and mislead.
Gene Citrone works for a Cranberry Township, PA engineering and construction firm which has joint ventures with PA firms to assist the Marcellus Production companies.