Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania
Gas companies stopped by the Farm Show this week to bid on livestock from kids who live in the counties where they drill.
Much of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale drilling takes place in rural areas. Over the years, gas companies and farmers have had to learn how to co-exist. Sometimes those relationships are positive. Other times, they can be rocky.
That’s why some drilling companies come to Pennsylvania Farm Show—where they make an effort to buy livestock and a little goodwill.
Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania
Joanne Martin collects a sample of water from Brady Run, a stream in South Beaver Township in western Pennsylvania. She is a citizen scientist monitoring the water for potential pollution from nearby natural gas drilling.
Joanne Martin stands on the muddy bank of Brady Run, a stream in Beaver County in western Pennsylvania. To get there, she crawled down a steep gravel slope, ducking low tree branches and stepping over dead brush.
Martin has been coming to Brady Run for three years to test the water for signs of pollution from natural gas drilling. There’s a producing well pad just about a half a mile from here.
First, Martin plunks in a wooden measuring stick to check stream depth.
“Then, I go upstream a little bit because I don’t want to take water from where I disturbed the sediment,” she says. “I don’t want any of that in the sample.”
She takes a small cup, the kind you might use at a doctor’s office, and dips it into the stream, bracing herself for the icy water.
Back on the bank, Martin uses a pocket-sized monitor to test her sample. It’s measuring the conductivity of the water. A higher conductivity reading than usual could be a sign that metals are discharging into the stream, possibly as the result of a spill of the salty flowback water that comes up out of a well after it has been hydraulically fractured or fracked.
Martin is not a professional scientist. So why is she standing in the middle of a frigid stream on a December morning?
Across the country, the shale boom has given rise to fears about whether oil and gas development might be polluting the water we drink and the air we breathe. This has led some residents to try doing their own field research, in the mode of “citizen science.” But unlike the annual Christmas Bird Count or a website to help astronomers catalog billions of galaxies, their work is a tricky blend of science and advocacy.
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY
Kevin McDonald, PGW Senior Pipe Mechanic uses a compressor to back fill soil covering main and service pipelines in North Philadelphia.
Philadelphia has some of the leakiest natural gas distribution pipes in the nation.
This comes with an environmental cost, because natural gas is primarily made up of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Methane emissions are getting more attention from climate scientists, environmentalists and policy makers because they actually have a much more immediate impact on global warming than the greenhouse gas that gets the most ink, carbon dioxide.
Philadelphia’s recent failure to close a deal to sell the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works to a private company means those leaks will continue to get fixed at a snail’s pace.
At current estimates many of us will be dead before all that leak prone pipe beneath city streets is replaced.
Miles and miles of leaks
Philadelphia’s natural gas infrastructure resembles that in other older industrial cities on the Eastern Seaboard.
Interstate transmission pipelines feed natural gas from well heads on the Gulf Coast, or Marcellus Shale to nine separate “city gates.” At these city gates, the high pressure gas, which comes in at 800 pounds per square inch, gets transformed into low pressure gas. By the time the gas gets to your stove, it’s about one-quarter pound per square inch. Continue Reading
Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania
A natural gas pipeline cuts through the woods in Lycoming County. More than $10 billion in pipeline projects have been announced for Pennsylvania.
The surge in drilling has meant trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are being pumped out of Pennsylvania every year. And now billions of dollars are flooding into the state for new pipeline projects to move that gas to market.
It’s the next phase of the fracking boom: energy companies are building their own sort of interstate highway system—a network of pipelines.
“A sense of urgency”
Matt Henderson, of Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, says more than $10 billion in pipeline projects have already been announced for Pennsylvania.
“Production has outpaced anybody’s wildest expectations,” he says. “The operators were found in a position where, ‘We need to get this out.’ So there’s a sense of urgency.”
Industry representatives say undoubtedly not all of the proposed pipelines will get built. But there’s still a race to get gas to customers.
Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas has been able to ship its gas out of northeastern Pennsylvania on three existing interstate pipelines. Company spokesman Bill DeRosiers says Cabot is partnering with other companies on new projects to ease bottlenecks in the system, like the $700 million Constitution pipeline. It was recently approved by federal regulators to carry Marcellus gas to New York and New England.
And there’s an even bigger one on the horizon.
(Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY) permalink
Many of the ash trees have fallen prey to emerald ash borer. Baker points to evidence of an exit hole from the invasive beetle.