Saturday, December 3, 2011

Shale gas fracking gets a new black eye: Illegal dumping

AP file photo

The natural gas drilling industry, under continued environmental criticism last week at public hearings in New Jersey and New York (see Related Stories below), suffered another public relations blow Thursday in Pennsylvania with the arrest of a truck driver who admitted dumping some 800 gallons of synthetic drilling fluid on state game lands.

The Morning Times reports that:
"a large pool of viscous black fluid was discovered on Pennsylvania Game Land 219 off Regan Hill Road in Warren Township by a neighboring resident. The pool was reportedly two-to-three inches deep and covered an area of approximately 2,100 square feet on the 5,691 acre hunting preserve."
Josh Foster
Police said that the driver, Josh Foster, 27, from Temple, Ga., admitted dumping the material and was charged with a third degree misdemeanor--“scattering rubbish”--by Pennsylvania State Police.

Drilling company took full responsibility
The only good news for the shale gas industry is that, when it learned of the incident, Talisman Energy Inc., the company operating the gas well from which the fluid apparently was trucked, notified police, determined the identity of the driver, and took full responsibility for the cleanup.

Talisman officials noted that Foster is not their employee but was working at the time for a local trucking company subcontracted by Talisman.

Pennsylvania needs to sharpen its dumping law

One obvious lesson from the incident is that state law needs significant tightening up.
The penalties for "scattering rubbish" can hardly be an adequate disincentive to such environmental crime.

Pennsylvania should consider imposing a manifest paperwork trail system like one
adopted years ago in New Jersey to track the shipment of hazardous waste.

Requiring the submission to the state of a manifest for each load of waste shipped or transferred helps assure that hazardous material actually ends up at the designated
disposal facility.

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Related Stories:

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Will New Yorkers Veto Cuomo's Fracking Guidelines?

New York Fracking Rules Won’t Protect City Water, Foes Say

N.J. Assembly panel approves bill banning treatment, disposal of wastewater from 'fracking'

Marcellus Shale Coalition President: Fracking 'safe, responsible' 

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