Encana and Luzerne County Draft Emergency Response Plan for Potential Marcellus Shale Drilling Disaster

One of the concerns (fears?) expressed by community members when learning there will be a gas well drilled nearby is the question of what happens in the case of a disaster, like a fire or gas leak. Will local first responders be responsible for handling a situation they may not be equipped or trained to handle?

The off-shore Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster in the Gulf makes people concerned about local natural gas drilling. Even though the two forms of energy extraction are vastly different, with completely different levels of risk involved, it makes no difference. It has people spooked. Planning for safety, and how you will respond to a disaster, is a good thing—especially with gas drilling.

Enter Encana, which is about to drill Luzerne County, Pennsylvania’s first Marcellus Shale gas well. And people are nervous. Working closely with the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency, Encana is drafting a disaster emergency response plan.

Wendy Wiedenbeck, public and community relations advisor for EnCana, said local firefighters would not be responsible for containing or fighting a gas well fire or gas release at a well site.

“In the event of an incident, local emergency responders will be asked to provide support to our operations personnel who are specially trained to deal with incidents at oil and gas locations,” Wiedenbeck said.

“Should a serious well-control incident occur, such as release of gas or fire, EnCana will look to local emergency responders to provide support while EnCana calls upon well-control experts to assist in addressing such an incident,” she said.*

So the plan is that if the unthinkable happens, local first responders will provide support, but “experts” will actually handle the emergency. The only problem MDN sees is that the well-control experts Encana will call on have their offices in Texas. The news account does not specify whether or not there is an office closer, or how the experts intend to respond in a timely manner, but presumably that’s outlined in the proposed plan.

Encana and the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency are completing the draft disaster response plan now, and as soon as it’s ready, it will be released to the public for comment and feedback. Encana and Luzerne County are showing the way for other energy companies and municipalities. Plan now for the unthinkable, and when/if it happens, the severity will hopefully be less than it otherwise would have been because you have a plan.

*Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (May 31) – Response to gas disaster in the works

  • Elizabeth

    Oh, where to begin…
    “Level of risk” is a relative term. It depends upon whom is experiencing the suffering and how difficult it is to receive your due, or the quality of life you once had before a drilling disaster. It’s easy for you, as I understand you are not a land owner. I am. You can pick up and move if your water or land or the view on your horizon is destroyed. My family has owned our land for over 100 years and we have been good stewards to it. We don’t want to go anywhere. So, our level of risk is considerably higher than yours. For this reason, I have never felt that you even have a place at the table in this debate, as land owners will suffer the greatest hardship in the event of a drilling disaster.

    Accepting a gas company’s offer to be in charge of a clean up or disaster mitigation is like, well…like asking BP to be in charge of capping a rogue oil well and managing the clean up. I don’t even have to make this stuff up, it writes itself!

    It is in THEIR best interest to be in charge in order to hide the extent of their crimes and shortcuts. It is NOT in the best interest of the land, the people, and the livelihood of New Yorkers. They will continue to make billions of dollars while New Yorkers suffer from their greed. This is a fact that becomes more and more apparent every day as people learn about energy companies and how they do business. There is no denying it.

    Funding for special teams of NON-energy company emergency responders and the equipment they need should be provided by energy companies. We can see that, as in the gulf, the systems they have in place for even stopping the worst of the disaster from continuing are like watching a Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

    The only reason they keep saying this is affordable technology is because we place no expectations on them, we expect no personal responsibility from them, and we allow them to regulate themselves. Of course it’s affordable when the systems that hold them accountable at the town, county, and state levels are not in place yet. They have counted on that thus far, we have seen the result, and it isn’t good.

    I urge you to buy a patch of land, build a home, put your family in it, love where you live, and then urge your neighbors to lease to gas drillers. Hopefully, you will have your minerals and possibly your quality of life taken by compulsory integration and you can feel what the rest of us feel. Then, and only then, will you have any standing in this debate in my view. Hopefully you will come to understand this someday and relieve us all of the smarmy attitude that contends that we are all alarmists and not that bright for not wanting this travesty thrust upon us.

  • “Encana is drafting a disaster emergency response plan.” What a joke! Will Encana please explain how their “experts” will respond to a contaminated aquifer? Bring us bottled water? Install a water treatment facility on our property?

    They already have a disaster emergency response plan in place. They will wait for us to sue them, like Cabot has done in Dimock. Then they will ignore us and deny they are responsible and pay the monthly fines — a cost of business they’ve planned for from the start. Finally, they will offer us a settlement in return for our silence — just another cost of business. And then they’ll resume drilling until the next disaster.

  • Jim

    Sorry you feel that I don’t have a place at the table of this debate Elizabeth. The fact is, we all have a place at the table, regardless of where we live, urban or rural. And FYI, I own a bit less than an acre of land in rural NY, not far from large tracts of wooded and open land, and I fully expect when/if drilling begins, I’ll see wells within a few miles of my home, maybe closer. And I welcome it.