The Myth of "Responsible Drilling"
On February 4th, Tom Ridge, in his new role as "strategic advisor" for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, visited Waterville, PA to unveil the gas industry's "Commitment to the Community," a promise to follow practices that will protect the people and the environment of Pennsylvania. Present at the event were representatives of Anadarko Petroleum, a company that has become the poster child of those who want to believe that hydro-fracking can be done in a safe and responsible manner. At the ceremony, Anadarko representative Scott Chesebro proudly noted his company's "record of environmental stewardship."
But the Department of Environmental Protection's list of violations suggests that Anadarko has had problems following the rules established to protect us. In 2010 Anadarko was cited for 80 violations, a relatively small number when compared to other gas companies. While many of these violations were for minor infractions (not posting the permit number, etc.), others were of a more serious nature.
Mr. Chesebro also touted Anadarko's "closed-loop system," where no cuttings from a drilling "would ever touch the Commonwealth." This is good news, since Anadarko seems to have had problems maintaining their containment pits to DEP specifications. In 2010 they were cited 14 times for various infractions concerning these pits (insufficient capacity, holes in the liner, the liner subsiding into the pit). The inspectors noted spills of cement, sand, wash water, fluids ("presumably ethylene glycol"), diesel, oil, grease, and triethylene glycol on the pad or on the ground surrounding the pad.
On three occasions substantial amounts of chemicals touched
the Commonwealth. On March 26th
Anadarko spilled 300 barrels (12,000 gallons) of synthetic-based mud at a
drilling site in the
And then there's the truck accident that nearly cost the
Anadarko works hard to position itself as the responsible gas company. They've hired a team of public relations representatives, and they've given money to local groups such as Clinton County Cleanscapes to "greenwash" their image. Politicians and business leaders who want to tap into the financial bonanza of the Marcellus Shale believe that if all of the gas companies were like Anadarko, we could have the benefits of drilling without any of the problems associated with this industry.
But the examples above suggest that responsible drilling is
a myth. While Anadarko is indeed
one of the very best of the gas companies, their activities still represent a serious
threat to the people and the environment of
The sad truth is that the best practices of the industry and the most rigorous enforcement of the DEP rules cannot prevent the human error that is responsible for the incidents cited above. We need to keep these companies out of our state forests (complete documentation can be found at my website: http://www.lhup.edu/rmyers3/marcellus.htm).
 Lock Haven Express, "Ridge Urges 'Best Practices' for Marcellus Shale Industry" (2/05/11).
 DEP, "2010 Violations," Violation #601717-18 (11/5), #601749-50 (12/16), #601751-52 (12/20), #601753-54 (12/20).
 DEP, "2010 Violations," Violation #583157 (3/15), #583420 (3/17), #584007 (3/25), #586466 (3/31), #591712 (7/23), #591720 (7/23), #595978 (9/22), #596160 (9/22), #596750 (10/4), #597464 (10/18), #599616 (11/4), #601397 (12/10), #602040 (12/22), #602267 (12/29).
 DEP, "2010 Violations," Violation #583988 (3/26), #259424 (6/15), #602247 (12/22).
 Lock Haven Express, "Frac Water Truck Rolls Over on Grugan Twp. Rural Road" (2/1/11)