The floods and massive rains hit parts of Pennsylvania where shale gas drilling is being done and were an unprecedented test of the gas industry's operations and strength of rules to protect the environment during extraordinary circumstances and stresses.
How did the industry do in protecting the environment during the floods and rains? Now one week later it would seem that the gas industry deserves a high grade for operating in a manner that prevented any significant pollution. The same cannot be said for sewer operations in many parts of the state that were overwhelmed and sent large volumes of contaminated raw sewage into rivers and streams.
Don Gilliland writes an article in today's Patriot-News (http://www.pennlive.com/) that reviews information from industry, industry opponents, and regulators and reports that no major pollution incident has been attributed to gas drilling.
At one point, according to Gilliland, PennEnvironment put a photo of a drilling rig under water on its website with the message: "Here's more evidence Marcellus Shale drilling pads should NOT be allowed in floodplains." But the group took down the photo when it realized it was of a drilling rig in Pakistan.
During the rains, the biggest concern were pits to store water used by some companies in the gas drilling industry, but many in the gas industry do not use pits anymore. Instead mostly tanks or so-called closed loop systems that keep water in closed containment systems at all times are used.
Moreover the regulations governing open pits require the design of the pits to be able to withstand at least 24 inches of rain falling directly into the pit and to prevent any run-off from flowing into it.
The rains and floods were a huge stress that would have exposed substantial problems in the gas industry's operations if it was not well prepared. The absence of incident reports indicates that a high grade has been earned.