Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shale gas drilling controversy no longer local

Fleet Street

Concerns about potential environmental and health impacts of the ‘fracking’ method of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale started out with a few reports in small Pennsylvania and New York newspapers about property owners near drilling sites who were complaining about polluted well water and sick pets.  

But now the story’s all grown up and gone international.

Rowena Mason, who writes about energy for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph in London, today filed this story:
Shale gas pollution fears leave Americans with another energy headache.

Mason leads the piece with this:

“Still politically scorched from BP’s giant Gulf of Mexico spill, it couldn’t be a worse time for America’s oil giants to find themselves roasting in another environmental firestorm.

“But new flames of controversy are on the horizon – in fact, literally emanating from the drinking water of US citizens living near so-called “shale gas” fields.”

Mason notes that the independent documentary film, Gasland, which sounds a shrill alarm about  fracking, has been drawing attention to the fracking issue.  She reports that a new   gas and oil industry website, Energy in Depth, is attempting to stem any injury by offering a rebuttal to the film.

Why might this be of interest to international readers?

Because drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale is no longer
a high-risk venture pursued by a score of small and moderate-sized, independent gas companies.  It’s now become big business—big international business.

Mason writes:

“We already know that energy companies, including BP, have been involved in lobbying against tighter shale gas regulation, asking that decisions are taken at state level, rather than being left to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“After all, they have a huge amount to lose if the US suddenly loses its fervour for shale.

“The London-listed companies are exposed to the tune of billions: Shell bought up $4.7bn of assets in Marcellus last month, BG Group has a $2bn joint venture with Exco and BP has a $2.5bn partnership with Chesapeke.

“They have all piled into shale drilling over the last couple of years, touting the technology as the answer to America’s energy thirst.”

To reinforce the point, Mason notes that BP’s  Tony Hayward  has hailed shale gas as a “complete game changer.”


Yes, that BP and that Tony Hayward—the company and CEO that have dominated the 24-hour news cycle for weeks since one of their drilling rigs ruptured, trigging an oil spill that is devastating the Gulf of Mexico. 

We suspect that a lot more stories—local and international—will be written on the subject in the weeks ahead.  Should be plenty enough to keep the folks over at Energy in Depth quite busy.


Our most recent posts:
NJ Chamber of Commerce elects new directors 
What’s in fracking fluid? Wyoming wants to know 
SRPL nominees before NJ Judiciary panel today 
‘Gasland’ - Do the pictures tell the fracking story? 
Lawmakers in NY and PA weigh a gas-drilling moratorium 


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