For the second year in a row, the New York State Assembly has passed a bill that would create a one-year moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the state. But there’s a difference in this year’s bill. This new bill would stop all hydraulic fracturing—both horizontal AND vertical. Oy vey. Where does one begin with this?
It is MDN’s belief that most “rank and file” people who oppose Marcellus Shale drilling don’t really understand the science of it. They hear a few catch phrases about polluting water, or using too much water, or thousands of gallons of chemicals going into the ground. And vague threats that their drinking water is about to be permanently poisoned. And that’s about all they know or want to know. Their opposition is colored by their philosophy or worldview: big energy companies are evil and lie, burning hydrocarbons like oil and gas destroy the environment and cause dangerous levels of global warming, etc. Yes, this is an over-generalization and paints an entire movement with a very broad brush that does not apply to everyone who is against drilling. MDN is just saying this is the case “in general” or “on average.”
Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest energy companies in the world, announced on Monday that it will build a “world-scale” chemical plant in the Marcellus region of the United States. The chemical plant is called a “cracker” and typically costs more than a billion dollars to construct. Its construction would provide thousands of both short-term construction and long-term operations jobs. Both West Virginia and Pennsylvania have been actively courting chemical companies to build one or more cracker plants in their states (see this MDN story).
The cracker plant would take advantage of one of the byproducts of Marcellus Shale drilling—ethane—which is converted to the hydrocarbon ethylene. Ethylene is a “feedstock” (or raw material) used to make plastics, including polyethylene, the most manufactured and widely-used plastic in the world (see MDN’s brief petrochemical primer here).
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley yesterday signed an executive order requiring two Maryland agencies—the Department of of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to conduct a study on the impacts of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
Gov. O’Malley’s order is called the “Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative” and it sets up a board to work with both the MDE and DRN during the process. The board will be composed of representatives from both the environmental community and the drilling industry, as well as a private citizen from Western Maryland. The Marcellus Shale region only touches a small portion of Maryland, running through the “panhandle” counties of the state—underneath all of Garrett County and much of Allegany County.