Drilling for Natural Gas in the Marcellus Shale: What’s It All About and What Can We Do

Drilling for Natural Gas in the Marcellus Shale: What’s It All About and What Can We Do

Note: This piece was first published by Gloria Forouzan in the Lawrenceville-Bloomfield community newspaper The Bulletin.

In Pittsburgh, gas drilling in the Marcellus shale has recently become big news. Why?

1. It’s in our backyard. The Marcellus shale is a region of natural gas reserves that extends through much of Pennsylvania. To date, drilling has occurred in rural area, but now drillers are turning their attention to urban areas.

2. Money. Gas in the Marcellus range is estimated to be worth 3 trillion dollars.

Fracking in Amwell Twp, PA, photo from Marcellus-shale.us

3. “Landsmen,” who try to get residents to sign leases allowing gas drilling, have been making the rounds in Lawrenceville, where at least 60 drilling leases have already been signed. Over the last two years, millions of gas industry dollars have been appearing in our state’s legislators’ campaign coffers.

4. Danger. Gas wells in Clearfield and Dioga counties, as well as Moundsville, West Virginia, had major accidents in June. One explosion caused toxic drilling fluid to spew 75 feet into the air for 16 hours. Imagine such an explosion within Pittsburgh’s densely populated neighborhoods.

What can we do about it?

Get the facts. The gas industry tells us that they’ve been drilling for decades.

What they’re not telling us:

Today’s gas drilling must go deeper than ever before, fracturing shale 7,000 to 8,000 feet under the ground (A mile is 5,280 feet).

A new process called “fracking” is used to extract the natural gas. “Fracking” takes millions of gallons of our clean water and mixes it with sand and dangerous chemicals. This mixture is forced into the well under much higher pressure than ever used before.

First the well is drilled down vertically to a depth of at least 7,000 feet. From this main well it’s drilled horizontally in several directions. It winds up looking like an underground spider of gas lines that can extend up to a mile. A well on the banks of the Allegheny could easily reach into most of residential Lawrenceville.

Currently, there are few federal or state protections regulating the gas industry’s use of our land, water, or air. The gas industry has been spending millions to lobbky our state representatives and senators to keep them from regulating and taxing natural gas. Most Pennsylvania cities have too little recourse to limit drilling.

What can you, as a resident, do?

Talk to a lawyer before signing a lease. Landmen are not there to protect you or do you a favor. They’re working on behalf of a multi-trillion dollar industry.

City Council plans to hold a public meeting on the issue, most likely in September. Call Patrick Dowd’s office for the details: 412-255-2140.

Talk to your state legislators: Rep. Dom Costa, 412-361-2040; Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, 7171-787-5470; and Senator Jim Ferlo, 412-621-3006. Let them know that you’re watching and you vote.

Ask the gubernatorial candidates for their stance on urban gas drilling. As of May 2010, Tom Corbett’s campaign received $361,207 from the gas industry and Dan Onorato’s received $59,300.


Want some more information?

Check out these sites for more information and to join your neighbors in opposing this devastating procedure that makes money for a few while destroying the resources of the many.

Marcellus Protest.

Marcellus Shale info site

Splashdown PA

Allegheny Defense Project

Center for Coalfield Justice


If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, you can sign this petition which simply states “We the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania call for a complete moratorium of all natural gas and oil drilling activities, including exploration, until a time when the processes involved do not affect the environment (including land, air and water) and the health of the population in any negative manner what so ever.”

For a fun way to find out what other communities have done in the face of natural drill leases, check out Frick Park on August 27. Local organizers are putting together a screening of the movie Gasland on August 27 in Frick Park.


8 thoughts on “Drilling for Natural Gas in the Marcellus Shale: What’s It All About and What Can We Do

    1. I’m just a bloggy lady, Josh, not a funded newspaper! Where do you recommend people look for a more balanced analysis?

  1. i am sad to disagree a little. if North Americans need so much gas, they have to drill. if they don’t drill here, they will drill abroad while fighting wars.
    my opinion is, if gas is needed, it should be drilled here, so people can see the consequences and give up on consuming too much.
    if consuming many goods seems necessary for most, they should be produced here, with smoke and pollution, like in “good old times”, so people become aware of what it takes to make those goods.
    when the industry is moved far away from us, we are not aware that we consume too much.

    1. Disagreement isn’t bad. That’s an interesting perspective, one I hadn’t considered. If people start opening up their yards to drilling in the middle of dense neighborhoods and see that it is unpleasant and disagreeable, will we be able to stop the destruction once it’s begun?

  2. thanks for trying to get others informed about the issue of “fracking” the earth. I hope it gets people to come and see the film “Gasland” for themselves. It is a shocking eye-opener to really understand the devastating and long term consequences of extracting this natural resource. It will help us to consider how we each can do more in our lives to conserve energy.

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