As I understand usual leases, all parties to the agreement sign. In a typical gas lease, the land owner signs, and is witnessed by the landsman. The actual oil/gas company doesn't sign. Does this make the lease either illegal, or less binding, or act as a weasel clause for the oil company to walk away from property/aquifer destruction claims? Clarification would be most appreciated.

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Comment by daniel cohen on March 8, 2010 at 8:59am
Dear Bill,
You might want to check out Aquifer Contamination-Part 1 and Part 2 which continues the discussion in some depth.
All good thoughts,
Comment by Bill on March 8, 2010 at 8:38am
Daniel, I commend you. You have accurately described the sitution throughout your blog. From your post of 2/11/2010, I will put myself in position 3, "environmentally cautious." To all, we could debate the pros and cons all day and not come to a conclusion; because we simply do not know the impacts we will inherit years from now. To the "pro drillers", you cannot argue there is risk because there have been accidents. This is fact. I admit know little about drilling, but I do understand corporate America. Management does not run a company in our country; company shareholders are in charge. The shareholders are only interested in increasing dollar per share, regardless of the consequence. Daniel was accurate when he stated "They do not care about your land." To those on the fence, I know at face value it looks like a lot of money, but is it? The only people who have made a fortune are the large landowners. By large I mean 100 acres plus. Smaller land owners of course are entitled to royalties if you are pulled into a pool, But take into consideration, the value of your property, what you will have to pay in federal/state taxes and potential long term environmental impacts. It may not be as lukerative as it appears to be. In fact, you may not even get a return on your land investment, but yet you are being asked to put it at risk.
Comment by daniel cohen on February 11, 2010 at 10:07am
Dear Shalers,
So what can we make of it all? For me, it seems to come down to 3 positions-1)Anti-drill 2)Pro-drill 3)environmentally sensitive cautious drilling with an eye out for contamination issues. The Anti-drill group is against drilling in any form, and point to horror stories to back their position. The Pro-drill group is for drilling no matter what, claiming jobs,riches and protection from mishaps. This protection they claim is backed by the company,State & Federal regulations. The third group, of which I now find myself in, takes the position that we can hope for the best (Pro-drill) and prepare for the worst(Anti-drill).

This means, that for me, any lease signed will have to have the possible aquifer contamination issue addressed , and full cleanup of the site as part of the agreement. On my part, careful water testing of my water well and pond will be an ongoing monitoring procedure, on a yearly basis. Further, since my neighbors activities can affect my water , as a good neighbor I'd want to let folks know what I'm doing to protect the aquifer and my family and why.I'd also encourage them to consider doing the same thing for their family and property.

If a company does not wish to include the above protections, I'm personally prepared to forgoe the possible $ rewards of the drilling. This is a hard, but very personal choice, not entered into lightly and clearly not for everyone.

I'd like to thank all those who have shared their thoughts and ideas , many with great passion, to help me formulate my own position. No matter where you come down on this, I wish you all good health, wealth and happiness.
Comment by daniel cohen on February 11, 2010 at 9:36am
Bits & Pieces(last one)
What is now needed most, according to scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere, is a rigorous scientific study that tracks the fracturing process and attempts to measure its reach into underground water supplies.
In Wyoming EPA scientists with the Superfund program are conducting the first federal investigation of this kind, sampling available water sources and looking for any traces of the chemicals used in drilling. But Colorado’s Thyne says a proper study would go a step further.
“The critical thing that has to be done is a systematic sampling of the background prior to drilling activity, during and after drilling activity,” Thyne said, “Ideally we would go out, we would put monitoring wells in and surround an area that was going to be fractured as part of normal operations. The budget for that kind of project would run ballpark $10 million. It’s a relatively small project for the U.S. Geological Survey or the EPA to undertake.”
Where Should the Waste Go?
On the East coast, one of the most important unanswered questions about drilling is how to dispose of the chemically tainted wastewater that hydraulic fracturing produces [3].
Most drilling wastewater in other parts of the country is stored in underground injection wells [11] that are regulated by EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act [12]. However the geology in the East makes injection less viable, and less common. In New York and Pennsylvania, millions of gallons of drilling wastewater could eventually be produced each day.
On Wednesday, the EPA voiced its most explicit concerns in a decade about the environmental risks presented by drilling, in its response to New York State’s plan for drilling in the Marcellus Shale [22], the layer of rock stretching from central New York to Tennessee. The agency said it had “serious reservations” about whether hydraulic fracturing was safe to do inside the New York City watershed and urged the state to consider possible threats to public health.

My personal comments will be following in a separate post.
Comment by daniel cohen on February 11, 2010 at 9:33am
Bits & Pieces(continued)
ProPublica has uncovered more than a thousand reports [4] of water contamination from drilling across the country, some from surface spills and some from seepage underground. In many instances the water is contaminated with compounds found in the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing. ProPublica also found dozens of homes in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado [5] in which gas from drilling had migrated through underground cracks into basements or wells.
But most of these problems have been blamed on peripheral problems that could be associated with hydraulic fracturing – like well failures or leaks – without a rigorous investigation of the entire process

ProPublica has also found that drilling procedures that can prevent water pollution [6] and sharply reduce toxic air emissions – another frequent side effect -- are seldom required by state regulators and are mostly practiced when and where the industry wishes.
Another uncertainty arises from the enormous amounts of water needed for “fracking.” The government estimates that companies will drill at least 32,000 new gas wells annually [7] by 2012. That could mean more than 100 billion gallons of hazardous fluids will be used and disposed of each year if existing techniques, which often involve 4 million gallons of water per well, are used.
In a conference call with reporters this spring, American Petroleum Institute senior policy advisor Richard Ranger – an industry expert who has spoken frequently on the fracturing issue -- was asked for evidence that fracturing is without environmental risk: “Have there been any recent studies done on the safety of this?” a reporter asked.
“The issue of where do these fracking fluids go, the answer is based on the geology being drilled,” Ranger said. “You’ve got them trapped somewhere thousands of feet below with the only pathway out being the well bore.

A recent regional government study in Colorado concluded that the same methane gas tapped by drilling had migrated into dozens of water wells [8], possibly through natural faults and fissures exacerbated by hydraulic fracturing.
Dennis Coleman, a geologist in Illinois, has seen an example where methane gas has seeped underground for more than seven miles – several times what industry spokespeople say should be possible. He is a leading international expert on molecular testing whose company, Isotech Laboratories, does scientific research for government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and the oil and gas industry.
“There is no such thing as impossible in terms of migration,” Coleman said. “Like everything else in life it comes down to the probability. It is never a hard and fast thing.”
In another case, benzene, a chemical sometimes found in drilling additives, was discovered throughout a 28-mile long aquifer in Wyoming.
“It is common knowledge that the lower layers are full of irregularities and inconsistencies,” said Patrick Jacobson, a rig worker who manages drilling fluid pumps and has worked on Wyoming drilling projects for more than 20 years. “I think anybody who works in the oil fields, if they tell you the truth, would tell you the same thing.”

Comment by drillman on February 11, 2010 at 7:20am
And, your two subsequent posts prove without any doubt that any previous comment you made suggesting that you were supportive of drilling is false. I do have you pegged correctly. You are an anti-driller. You continue to search for any accident and post that information. I've already stated there have been accidents. No industry is immune to accidents. That's why I was hoping you would just man-up and admit that you are against drilling. Like I said, I've dealt with your kind before - pretending to support drilling while at the same time attempting to discredit the industry. Somehow it makes you feel good - just like you have the need to have other folks "agree" with you or to get along. You may be well-intentioned but you have a tendency to talk around your point so that you don't alienate the other side. Something you probably learned from your liberal professors in college.
Comment by drillman on February 11, 2010 at 7:14am
You reacted to the Senator Inhof video exactly as I expected you would - by attempting to discredit it. Which, again, proves my point. Doesn't matter what you read, you will choose to believe what you want to believe (your right of course). I could provide you with mountains of data that show drilling has been done safely but you would make every attempt to shoot holes in it. You're simply not in favor of drilling and I sense you're not being entirely honest with your position.
Comment by daniel cohen on February 11, 2010 at 1:02am
Bits & Pieces(continued)
In Wyoming, a state covered with natural gas development, the Environmental Protection Agency found Benzene and other compounds in more than a third of groundwater samples tested at one site.
DEC officials downplay the importance of chemical additives. Additives make up just a fraction of a percent of the fluids; 99.4 percent is water and sand, said Bradley Field, the DEC's oil and minerals director.
But with two million gallons of drilling water used for one well, that equals 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals.
For now, DEC's officials are asking their critics to have faith. According to Washington, DEC won't proceed with well applications without full protection for the environment.
New York City Councilman James Gennaro, a trained geologist who heads up the council’s environmental committee, believes that the surface impacts of drilling alone represent a prima facie case for an outright ban on drilling in any environmentally sensitive area. “Even if you didn’t inject one drop of ‘fracking fluid’ into the ground, just setting up the wellhead, with the drilling pad and all the trucking involved, are activities that will lead to the degradation of the city’s water supply,” says Gennaro. NYDEC, for its part, says that it won’t permit drilling in any watershed unless that watershed can be “fully protected.”

Comment by daniel cohen on February 11, 2010 at 12:47am
Bits & Pieces(continued)
In 2004 Theo Colborn, a scientist who specializes in the health effects of low-dose chemical exposure, began to investigate drilling fluids. She was spurred by the story of a Colorado resident who suspected her cancer was tied to water contamination from a nearby gas well.
Colborn collected shipping manifests that trucks must carry when they haul hazardous materials for oil and gas servicing companies. When an accident occurred, she took water and soil samples and tested them for contaminants.
She discovered nearly 200 chemicals, from cancer-causing compounds like Benzene to a compound called 2-BE, which she connects to serious human health problems.
Studies in New Mexico and Wyoming support Colborn's findings.

Comment by daniel cohen on February 11, 2010 at 12:44am
Dear Shalers,
The following are bits & pieces picked up as I tried to do some research on the fracing procedure. They are the actual quotes in many cases. I'll reserve my impressions until I've posted them all, in a series of posts. This is for your info and to develop your own impressions.

In New Mexico, oil and gas drilling projects that use waste pits, like those proposed for New York, have leached toxic chemicals into the water table at some 800 sites. In Colorado, more than 300 spills have affected water. In interviews with ProPublica and public radio station WNYC, state officials said they were not aware of these incidents.

Some of the DEC offices that would oversee Marcellus wells have no experience with gas drilling at all.

"There is a little bit of learning curve ... and that is where the concern falls," said William Kappel, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Ithaca, N.Y. "The tremendous amounts of water used for these processes - where are you going to get it and what are you going to do with that?"
DEC officials could not answer those questions. The DEC also says it doesn't track how drillers dispose of waste known as "produced water."

"It's not clear to me that there is any group who is looking at the overall impact of withdrawing the amount of water that might be required for the hydrofracking. Who is looking at the broader picture?" asked Susan Riha, director of the New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell.

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