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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Piper Must Be Paid

I used to say Sooner or later "the piper must be paid."
That time has come and we are making the first installments.
People living near the town of Galeton in Potter County, Pennsylvania are paying.
Tests have confirmed toxic levels of benzene have been found in the area's air. Dangerous levels of methane gas have been found coming from
residents taps.
These issues have been two of the more predictable issues, many others are starting to raise eyebrows, including the issue of compounding flood events in flood prone areas and abandon and orphan wells.

While the industry works at a frenzied pace to clear huge tracts of land
in areas that may be negatively impacted in existing flood zones.
Plans to study and minimize the impact that land clearing may have is
Progressing at a snail’s pace. In many municipalities plans to address the
flooding issues are non-existent.

Large tracts of land are being cleared and graveled to make way for large
gravel well pads, access roads and earth disturbances for pipeline
projects, which all have the potential to compound flood issues.

It is clearly a foreseeable risk to flood prone areas that land
clearing may compound flooding .

The Oil and Gas act pre-empts local governments
from enacting ordinances that restrict
the oil and gas industry with the exception that local
municipalities have limited ability to
enact ordinances governed by the Floodplain Management Act.

Failure to enact ordinances to protect downstream communities opens up a whole new can of worms.
Exposing upstream municipalities to what one day may be valid legal claims by downstream communities based on the failure to provide adequate flood management.

This and so many other complex issues have
received much less attention then they deserve.

One of the most overlooked and in my opinion important
issues is the issue of orphaned & abandon gas wells.
New gas wells are being drilled with plans to drill and hydraulically
fracture gas wells in areas where orphaned and abandon well are
located. Many of these wells have sat on the state's orphaned and abandon
gas well list for several years.
Orphaned and abandon gas wells are chosen to be plugged by the state on a priority basis.
The State prioritizes wells that present the most risk to water sources,in areas that are the more populated or wells that may cause damage to infrastructure or the environment.
Lower priority wells, located in less populated areas such as the case of many wells that are located in state forests are often overlooked.

The risks associated with hydraulically fracturing
horizontal well bores located near orphaned and abandon gas wells
should be receiving much more attention than it has been given.
Orphaned and abandon gas wells provide pathways
which may allow gas to travel to the surface.

Keating Township in Potter County is one of those areas.
One of the oldest gas well sites in our state.
With many of the orphaned gas wells situated near new Marcellus Gas well pads.
A Marcellus well bore can easily extend the distance to the abandon and orphan wells.
Many abandon wells extend close to, if not to the depth of the Marcellus shale.
Deep well drilling is not new; it has been a practice for decades.
With the advent of the newer technology of horizontal hydraulic fracturing a well comes the concern related to drilling near the orphaned and abandon gas wells.

Our state is home to countless orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells.
Pennsylvania has struggled to fund the orphaned and abandon well program.
Funds are not available to plug the thousands of wells on the waiting list.
To view Orphan and Abandon wells, visit Pennsylvania's, DEP emap online. Pennsylvania allows orphan and abandon gas wells to be adopted and will
supply individuals and organizations with lists if they wish to adopt.
With hopes that the impact fee our legislators have been working on gets passed. What would be a more appropriate and deserving way to use the funds, then to plug the orphaned and abandon wells?