Saturday, April 2, 2011

Marcellus Drilling Is Not Endangering The Chesapeake Bay

Yesterday I was interviewed by The Patriot-News about concern that Marcellus Drilling is causing additional nitrogen, phosphorus or sediment loading of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.  Simply put, there is no evidence that preparing well sites for drilling is even a minor impact to the Bay, while there is massive evidence about what pollution sources that are really endangering the Bay.  I have read that evidence.

We all need to get a grip.  Marcellus drilling is not the cause of every environmental problem or every bit of increasingly good economic news in Pennsylvania.  The Marcellus is big and important, but too many are losing perspective about its real impacts and benefits.  To some the Marcellus is imagined to be the root of all good or all evil.

In December 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection negotiated with the EPA Pennsylvania's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to meet a federal court requirement to stop polluting the bay with so much nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment that the Bay and it's watershed are severely impaired. 

The TMDL has numerous provisions that will reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution over the next 15 years to the levels that will restore the Bay.  Focusing on implementing that TMDL should be the priority.  Cleaning our local Bay watershed waters is a legal and moral imperative.

The fate of the Bay rests on implementing the TMDL and will not even be marginally impacted by the Marcellus drilling.  Getting the Marcellus done right also must be a top priority and making sure land preparation rules are followed is important no matter where the drilling is done.

When Marcellus drilling sites are prepared, whether they be in the Bay watershed or not, and most are not, the strong rules concerning erosion and sediment controls must be followed, and inspectors must be allowed to do their jobs, including making the initial decision about the issuance of a notice of violation.

But the Marcellus is not the root of all good or all evil and what happens with it will not save or impact the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


  1. "Contaminant Characterization of Effluent from Pennsylvania Brine Treatment- Josephine Facility Being Released into Blacklick Creek, Indiana County, Pennsylvania -Implications for Disposal of Oil and Gas Flowback Fluids from Brine Treatment Plants"

    The full report can be accessed here:

  2. Yes, you are right, John. Marcellus is not the root of all evil, but it is certainly a shoot growing from the real root, which was identified by St. Paul in his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:10). "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." The land grabs from unsuspecting landowners, the shortcuts taken that despoil the water and air, but most of all the haste to drill without scientific consensus that unconventional deep shale drilling will not cause irreparable harm to the environment - all these stem from the love of money, the taproot of evil, and as a result Pennsylvania is being quite literally pierced through with many sorrows.

  3. To Stephen Cleghorn:

    I am getting email notification of your comment but for some reason it is not showing up at the blog. Could you try again?

  4. I am finishing up a PowerPoint called: "Marcellus Shale Drilling - Promoted Benefits, Actual and Unknown Risks." I will be presenting it Friday night at Brady Township Community Center, Clearfield County at 7 PM. When I am finished with it, I intend to get the Ppt published on the web, and once that is done I am going to ask for detailed, fully documented responses from my Congressman Glenn Thompson, my state Senator Joseph Scarnati, my state Representative Sam Smith, and Kathryn Klaber of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. The "ask" will be in the form of an open letter to them which I will have widely circulated. I have done my best to assess the risks of this activity in an even-handed way, applying what I call "equal scrutiny" to those who promote the drilling (like you) and those who do not, and I have had extended discussions with Matt Pitzarella at Range Resources and Dave Yoxtheimer at Penn State's MCOR. With all that, the Ppt clearly argues that the environmental risks of deep shale drilling are simply too serious to proceed with it as we are doing now. I know you do not agree with that. Yet at the same time I know you are a fair person, so this is the question I have for you. May I send you a copy for your review and comment? You can reply via the email address on our farm website if you choose to give me an address to which I can send the Ppt. I'd like to have your input before I put it up on the web and send out the "open letters" to political leaders.

    I can tell you this, John. I may just be a goat farmer in western PA, but I will take on this industry in every way possible - with all my life's energy and my spirit and with nonviolent resistance if necessary - unless I can be convinced that the conclusions I have drawn so far from six months of research and reading are way off base. I believe your input on the Ppt (where my sources are transparent) could help me see perhaps things I do not see yet. Even if, after hearing from you, I remain convinced that I must fight you, I can tell you that I will do so with all due respect.

    Three years ago on this date my father, career Army, Corps of Engineers, died. When I delivered his eulogy I spoke the following words. They will give you a good idea of the kind of opponent to drilling I will be unless I am swayed otherwise.

    "As I meditated on our father’s life these past few days, I thought how much he reminded me of things I knew about two of our great saints, St. Paul and St. Augustine. Here is how Paul describes himself in addressing himself to the new Christians at Corinth:

    'Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so relying not on worldly wisdom, and by the grace of God we have done this without ulterior motives.' 2 Corinthians, 1:12-13

    That really sounds like Dad to me, 'godly sincerity' and 'without ulterior motives,' his intention to be helpful and to improve his community of loved ones.

    But in another important way I see Dad as closer to St. Augustine. As we all recall, St. Paul declared 'Love' to be the highest of the three spiritual gifts that last: Faith, Hope and Love. But I have read that St. Augustine saw 'Hope' as the greatest of the three gifts, saying that faith assures us that God is, and love tells us and others that God is good, but hope tells us that God will continue to be among us and work God’s will for justice.

    'And,' says Augustine, 'hope has two lovely daughters: anger and courage. Anger so that what must not be may not be; courage so that what should be can be.'

    Anger and Courage. Dad had both in great quantities. They were, as Augustine put it, the 'lovely daughters' of his hope."

    It is in such hope that I shall await your response. May I send you the Ppt and ask that you treat it seriously with the best you have to give me?