Natural gas industry in step with regulations

I am a local hydrogeologist with 30 years of experience in environmental permitting and investigating subsurface contamination from various types of industrial activities.

In addition, I am an avid fly fisherman who is extremely interested in water quality and quantity as it effects our world class fisheries in Pennsylvania.

Two years ago, I changed jobs to become more involved with the Marcellus Shale play in Pennsylvania and other shale plays throughout the U.S. because U.S. natural gas development reduces our carbon footprint and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.

As a licensed Pennsylvania Professional Geologist (PG), I take very seriously my work to protect our fresh water resources and my community.

I read with interest the letter “Corbett off on fracking” (May 17) and was struck by its lack of credible arguments.

Here are the facts:

The development of natural gas is an industrial activity worthy of the strong environmental regulations that have been developed by Pennsylvania’s policy makers to protect the environment.

Pennsylvania natural gas producers are required to operate within the strongest environmental regulations in the nation – rules that are rightfully rigid on water protection and enforced by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).

Our regulations ensure that multiple layers of cement and steel protect our fresh water aquifers and that frequent site inspections and repairs to access roads and drill pads prevent sedimentation of our streams.

Maintenance of water quantity within the natural hydraulic cycle is effectively regulated by PADEP and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC).

Recycling of frack water is a best management practice that is used industry-wide to the benefit of the environment and the gas well operators who save the cost of purchasing non-essential fresh water.

All these elements of environmental regulation and practice serve to protect the quality and quantity of water in our streams.

Hyperbole and scare tactics, sadly, continue to distract from the fact that thousands of men and women living, working, and raising families here are protecting our environment and promoting PA-produced energy each and every day.

Let me address Charles Leiden’s representations, point by point:

— Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi are nuclear power industry related events, unrelated to gas exploration and development. In fact, development of natural gas as a source of energy reduces the need for nuclear power.

— The Exxon Valdez and the Deep Water Horizon environmental disasters, though very serious, were oil releases, not gas releases, that occurred off-shore in salt water bodies, not on inland areas like Pennsylvania, where hydrofracking is practiced.

— Leiden is accurate in representing approximately 97 percent of the water on earth is salt water, two percent of the water on earth is polar ice cap and glaciers, and one percent of the water on earth is fresh water. However, not all life on earth is supported by fresh water, much of the life on earth is supported by salt water. This is not to say we should not strive to protect that part of life on earth that is supported by fresh water, as PADEP and SRBC regulations strive to accomplish.

— Although millions of gallons of fresh water seems like a large number, the removal of millions of gallons of fresh water from the water cycle is a very small percentage of the total available fresh water in Pennsylvania’s natural hydraulic cycle. Approximately 47 trillion gallons of fresh water is in storage underground in Pennsylvania, of which 9 to 12 trillion gallons is naturally discharged to springs, seeps, streams, and lakes.

— I don’t see how removal of fresh water from our water cycle would poison the air and water near drilling sites.

— Ohio has a history of injection induced earthquakes from the operation of Class I – hazardous waste and Class II – oil and gas field related waste injection wells. Pennsylvania does not. There are very few permitted Class II injection wells in Pennsylvania as opposed to over 180 permitted Class II wells in Ohio and no injection induced earthquakes have been recorded in Pennsylvania.

In closing, I would agree with Leiden on his last point and encourage readers to become educated regarding the shale gas industry in Pennsylvania and the many ways Pennsylvania and Federal environmental regulations are protecting our fresh water resources.

Richard T. Wardrop, PG

GES Inc.