More Marcellus Shale natural gas wells have been drilled in Cumberland Township, Greene County, than in any other Pennsylvania municipality.
Cumberland’s energy story mirrors Pennsylvania’s – a long history of coal mining, with a recent shift to natural gas extraction. “Underground bituminous mining raged in Cumberland Township for a century,” explained Democratic Representative Bill DeWeese, who represents the community in the state House. Now, the 39-square mile township is trading in its gob piles for drilling rigs. “Instead of a half a dozen [extraction] sites, it seems we will be confronting several hundred smaller Marcellus operations,” DeWeese said.
The 6,500-person community hosts 78 wells, operated primarily by Atlas Energy and the Colorado-based Energy Corporation of America.
That information comes from StateImpact’s new well-tracking app, which details every producing Marcellus Shale well in Pennsylvania. Cumberland Township has its own page on the app, as does every other municipality with at least one well.
Dimock, Susquehanna County has the third-most wells, with 70. The community, which has become a focal point for anti-drilling activists, was also the site of more drilling violations than any other municipality. (More on that below.)
On the county level, the results aren’t surprising to anyone who follows Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom closely: Washington County hosts the most wells, with 277. Bradford County, which borders New York, comes in second, with 241 wells. Greene comes next with 234 wells, followed by Tioga (174) and Susquehanna (156.)
A sign the Marcellus Shale boom is creating jobs: all five counties’ most recent seasonally-adjusted unemployment levels were below Pennsylvania’s 8.1 percent rate. “If you’re not working in Tioga County now, it’s because you don’t want a job,” said county planner Jim Weaver during a September interview with StateImpact.
Violation Hot Spots
What about violations?
Not surprisingly, more Department of Environmental Protection citations have been written in Dimock, Susquehanna County, than any other municipality. Cabot Oil and Gas operates 70 wells within the northeastern community, and has racked up more than 140 citations, including 14 at its Heitsman 4H well.Dimock has become a flashpoint for the anti-fracking movement, because of water well contamination the DEP claims was caused by Cabot drilling. The company denies responsibility, but agreed to pay more than $4 million to affected families last December. (For more on Dimock and its water problems, read StateImpact’s primer on the topic.)
Penn Township, Lycoming County comes in second, with a staggering 132 violations incurred by just 23 wells. Penn’s top offender is the Marquardt 8537H well, owned by Xto Energy, which racked up 26 violations for offenses like “failure to properly store, transport, process or dispose of a residual waste,” “discharge of pollutional materials into waters of the commonwealth,” and “pit and tanks not constructed with sufficient capacity to contain pollutional substances.”
A similar sounding but different company, Exco Resources, is responsible for more than half of Penn’s violations, with nearly a hundred at its sixteen wells in the township.
The remaining municipalities in the top five for violations are:
- Troy, Bradford County (98 violations; 45 wells)
- Springville, Susquehanna County (93 violations; 48 wells)
- Armenia, Bradford County (76 violations; 35 wells)
Of these municipalities, only Springville and Dimock also appear in the top five municipalities for gas wells.
As for counties, Bradford tops the list, with 380 violations, incurred at 241 wells. Two Granville wells owned by Chesapeake lead the county with 17 violations each. Susquehanna County is second, with 282 violations. (More than half of these occurred in Dimock.)
Washington hosts more wells than any other county, but comes in fifth, with 77 violations. It’s worth pointing out no Washington or Greene County municipalities made the top five for violations. Four northern counties topped Washington on the county list, too. Are drillers simply more cautious in southwestern Pennsylvania? Are there fewer inspectors? Weigh in with your explanation below, or share any interesting trends you may have spotted using our new app.