Reuters News Service Runs Hit Piece on Drilling in Dimock, PA and Cabot Oil & Gas

Marcellus Drilling News (MDN) has been following the story of Cabot Oil & Gas and the contamination of a few water wells with natural gas in the Dimock, PA area. The mainstream media, when it looks for stories about gas drilling and the environment, latches on to this particular story because of it’s potential to play at people’s fears about drilling. Reuters is the latest to do so. They just released an article titled, “U.S. energy future hits snag in rural Pennsylvania.” The subhead for one section of the story says: “Water tastes bad, animals lose fur.”

It’s a very slanted story. However, I mention it here because there are several interviews of local residents affected by contamination of their well water by natural gas. We do not look away from potential problems cause by drilling. Here are a few excerpts from the story:

When her children started missing school because of persistent diarrhea and vomiting, Pat Farnelli began to wonder if she and her family were suffering from more than just a classroom bug.

After trying several remedies, she stopped using the water drawn from her well in this rural corner of northeastern Pennsylvania, the forefront of a drilling boom in what may be the biggest U.S. reserve of natural gas.

“I was getting excruciating stomach cramps after drinking the water,” Farnelli said in an interview at her farmhouse, cluttered as a home with eight children would be, while her husband, a night cook at a truck stop, slept on the couch.

“It felt like an appendicitis attack.”

The family, which is poor enough to qualify for government food stamps, began buying bottled water for drinking and cooking. Their illnesses finally ended, and Farnelli found something to blame: natural gas drilling in the township of 1,400 people.

And this:

Ron and Jean Carter suspected there was a leak when the water supply to their trailer home started to taste and smell bad after Cabot started drilling 200 yards (meters) away.

Not wanting to risk the health of a new grandchild living with them, the 70-year-old retirees scraped together $6,500 for a water purification system.

“It was kind of funny that the water was good in July but after they drilled, it wasn’t,” said Ron Carter.

And if people in trouble is not enough to convince you how bad drilling is, bring on the animal stories:

Tim and Debbie Maye, a truck driver and post office worker who have three teenage children, have been cooking and drinking only bottled water since their well water turned brown in November after Cabot started drilling.

But she can’t afford bottled water for her animals. Her cats have been losing fur and projectile vomiting because they lick drips from the spigot that carries water from their well. Her three horses — one of which is losing its hair — drink as much as 50 gallons a day.

“I tell my husband, ‘I’m going out to poison the horses,'” she said.

I feel for these people and would not want to be in their shoes, that’s for sure. As stated before on this site, Cabot and the PA Department of Environmental Protection still have not figured out how Cabot may have caused the contamination. But let’s be clear: The contamination is natural gas, it is not contamination with chemicals that Cabot uses to fracture the hole. That’s why stories like this one from Reuters are nothing short of journalistic malpractice. Immediately following the story of hair falling off the horses, we get this paragraph:

Chemical Brew

Environmental groups fear energy companies are contaminating water supplies by using a toxic mix of chemicals that are forced deep into the rock along with water and sand to release the natural gas. The process is called hydrofracturing, or “fracking” in industry jargon.

This is not only misleading, but a lie to combine one issue (natural gas contamination of water) with another (chemical contamination of water). The people whose stories are featured are not suffering from chemical poisoning, their water supply has been contaminated with naturally occurring natural gas, likely (but not yet proven) to have crept in due to Cabot’s drilling activities in the area.

Such is the misleading mainstream media. Cast a careful and critical eye on the stories you read and listen to!

Read the full article: U.S. energy future hits snag in rural Pennsylvania

Texas Billionaire George Mitchell is Betting on the Marcellus in PA

According to the Forth Worth, TX Star-Telegram:

George P. Mitchell, the billionaire who pioneered development of shale gas in the Barnett formation of North Texas, is betting that the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania will be similarly prolific.

The 89-year-old oilman…said he expects Marcellus to be a “big boom” to Pennsylvania, birthplace of the U.S. oil industry. The natural gas prospect may stretch across about half the state, he said.

“Pennsylvania looks like a hell of a play, and I can’t understand how in 150 years we found it just now,” Mitchell said Wednesday in an interview at his office in downtown Houston. “Pennsylvania is a tough play right now, but I think in my geological opinion, it has tremendous potential.”

The article also says that Mitchell is providing backing for Alta Resources to drill in the Marcellus. Alta is right now investing in 45,000 acres in the Marcellus region.

Read the full article: Barnett Shale pioneer now betting on Pennsylvania shale

Is New York State Understaffed to Handle Marcellus Drilling Activity?

The Ithaca Journal and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (Democrat, Endwell, NY), say that while Pennsylvania has staffed up to handle permits and oversight of drilling activities, New York remains woefully understaffed:

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection is creating 37 new positions – despite a statewide hiring freeze – to oversee Marcellus production. The positions will be added to Pennsylvania’s Office of Mineral Resources Management, which oversees nearly 600 employees who handle many issues in addition to natural gas production.

Officials in New York, however, have few answers as to how 19 employees in the Bureau of Oil & Gas Regulation – part of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation – will be able to handle a rush of permits and intensive drilling activity on this side of the border.

“Clearly, we are not staffed to do the job,” said Assemblywoman Donna A. Lupardo, D-Endwell.

Of course the obvious truth is this: New York is not granting any permits to drill right now. So there’s no reason to staff up to high levels just yet. Marcellus Drilling News thinks when New York finally stops dithering over what regulations they’ll impose and get around to granting permits, the state DEC will add more positions. Why pay people to sit on their rear-ends? Oh that’s right, it IS the NY government!

Read the full article: New York understaffed to handle gas rush