Monday, July 11, 2011

Key Gas Migration Facts Reported in July 11 Scranton Times Article

Here are the key facts reported in the must-read Scranton Times Sunday article (see prior post for link to full article):

1. 10 confirmed cases by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection of gas migrating from gas wells to private water wells. 

2. 7 of 10 confirmed cases were in Bradford County, with the other 3 cases in nearby Wyoming, Susquehanna, and Lycoming counties.  The gas migration cases are regionally concentrated.

3. Each gas migration case typically impacted more than one private water well.

4. 7 gas migration cases for every 1,000 wells drilled in 2010.

5. Pennsylvania DEP issued 90 cementing and casing violations on 64 gas wells in 2010.

6. Pennsylvania DEP issued 47 cementing and casing violations in first 5 months of 2011.

The article does not have information about stopping the gas migrating and getting methane from gas drilling out of private water wells.  In the case of the Susquehanna county gas migration case (Dimock), as of January 2011, methane had been removed from 14 of the 19 gas wells impacted by drilling.

The new Pennsylvania gas drilling standards rule that was proposed in 2009 became final February 5, 2011.  The content of rules matter.  The enforcement of rules matter. 

And the quality of the work done by each company everytime that drilling is done matters most of all.  The gas industry as a whole must come to grips with this issue and not reflexively, defensively and sweepingly deny it.  Importantly some companies are coming to grips with it. 

Finally a couple observations about the journalism displayed in this piece compared to that of the infamous NYT reporter.

The Scranton Times article quotes leading experts on the record within the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and outside of the agency.  The experts are accurately described, unlike the presentation to the public of Ms. Rogers in the June 26th NYT story (see postings regarding the story for detail on this point).  The experts quoted by the Scranton Times are not widely debunked, fringe figures like Mr. Berman who the NYT reporter elevated to near genius level.

Unlike the NYT, the Scranton Times's did not rely heavily on anonymous sources, outdated information, or quotations made by people at some other time, at some other place or for some other purpose. Laura Legere actually interviewed for this story each of the people quoted in the story.  How quaint! 

Finally this piece focuses on a real issue in a serious manner without deliberately injecting sensationalistic, false narratives or frames such as Ponzi scheme, Enron, or radiation poisoning drinking water.  The Scranton Times shames the New York Times.


  1. Concerned ScientistJuly 11, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    I think it should also be pointed out how badly the Duke study missed this story as well. That made it sound like everywhere a well was drilled the methane in people's wells would be 17 times higher where in fact it has only caused a problem in 7 out of every 1000 wells or 0.7% of wells. They also did not discriminate between different areas where it is clear that the problem is in northeast PA, not southwestern PA, WV or near the Utica well drilled in NY. This is also an area where methane occurs naturally in people's water wells.

    Another important point that could have been emphasized in the Scranton Times article is that this has nothing to do with fracking. Fracking is not mentioned in the article which is a victory of sorts, but it would have made it an even better piece if it was clearly stated that this problem is not related to hydraulic fracturing. It is a drilling problem, not a fracking problem. The Duke study tried to tie the methane migration to fracking and that has confused a lot of people.

    Interesting that a local reporter from Scranton got the story much closer to right than the scientists from Duke. This is a good lesson to all scientists when entering a new area - talk to the locals! They can save you a lot of time and give a lot of good information because they have decades of experience. They can prevent you from making boneheaded mistakes. If the Duke people had talked to the DEP people for an hour they could have come to much more accurate and helpful conclusions.

  2. Greetings from Dimock...I have seen my water bubble, turn orange and black,smell and foam and scare the heck out of us...B.C.? Before Cabot? We drank the water. Does not take Duke or DEP or John Hanger to confirm WHAT I SAW AND SMELLED..Sincerely, Victoria Switzer

  3. Concerned ScientistJuly 12, 2011 at 7:03 AM


    Sorry to hear about your ordeal. I have a few questions if you don't mind-

    Are you a landowner? Did you receive some compensation for the damage to your well? Does your water still have a bad smell and is it still orange and black or has it returned to its normal color and smell? Did anyone offer an explanation for why the water turned orange and black and started to smell?

  4. I am a landowner and I have not received compensation for our fractured dreams...we were offered a water system from the gas company that is simply an experiement-more experimenting on us- I witnessed the dirty water going in and coming out-undrinkable...we were offered a monetary "settlement" that would be taxed and would be used to maintain the water system that we do not want...explanation? Neglient drilling, throw in leaking pits, spills, and a slap on the wrist from DEP...Our water looks clear after you let it run 15 or 20 minutes..will I ever drink it? No. When the gas company stops bringing us bottled water we will go back to buying it...takes a lot of bottles to live a life here in Dimock.

  5. Victoria:
    Your well was contaminated with methane due to drilling and you have often been treated unfaily. But The settlement that dep negotiated paid an average
    Of over $200,000 to each family. Each family had an escrow account established with twice the market value of their property. Total payments were $4.1 million. Families also kept their homes and mineral rights. All payments are subject to tax. That is the law. But these settlement payments did not have 30 per cent or more subtracted to pay for attorneys. Also the settlement was between dep and Cabot, leaving families able to pursue other legal remedies. The settlement included another fine, raisninf the total fines assessed to Cabot at over $1.1 million. It also included further steps to remedy the gas migration. As of December 2010 dep tests showed that methane levels in your water were below all legal standards. Cabot was required to plug wells and repair gas wells at great expense to it and at a loss of royalty income to others in order to stop the methane migrating. Cabot was further required to stop drilling and cracking in the area for a long period. It is only fair to put all the facts on the table. Gas migration is one of those facts. It is real problem that must be addressed. And major action has been taken and possibly more may be needed.

  6. Methane is the least of our worries here in Dimock...the water system you told us to take does not render the incoming water drinkable!!! This I have witnessed. YOU would not drink this water. Are we to take that risk? Cabot-Stark recently in a video stated that their wells were not defective, casing/cement were not flawed in anyway. Your findings were faulty and YOU/DEP signed off on any responsibility...We were offered 150,000 and a bogus water treatment system and a consent order that stated that fullfilled Cabots obligations. Good deal? For who John?????

  7. Concerned ScientistJuly 14, 2011 at 10:21 AM


    Can you explain in further detail the water system and what is currently wrong with the water? Have you had the incoming water analyzed to see what is wrong with it? If so, what were the findings?

    When you say that John Hanger was not willing to drink the water are you referring to the scene in Gasland? That whole part of the movie was a little odd. I probably shouldn't speak for John here but he had no way of knowing where that water came from and no one would want to drink murky water. IF you scooped murky water out of a pristine stream 500 miles from the nearest gas well and gave it to me to drink I would refuse to drink it because it was murky. It was probably the murkiness and possibly the fear of what the somewhat deranged Josh Fox might have put in the water that made John Hanger not want to drink it - not the fear of chemicals from fracking.