Sunday, September 26, 2010

West Virginia Well Still Burning

Last Sunday, the 19th, a Chesapeake well drilled about 9 miles from the town of Cameron, West Virginia ignited. Now, a week later, it's still burning. According to a Chesapeake spokesman, the the gas that is burning is from a pre-existing well.  

Earlier this week the WV Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued Chesapeake a Notice of Violation for "failing to prevent the release of natural gas and the potential pollution of the waters of the state". The DEP also determined that the well fire "presents an imminent danger to persons and an imminent danger that a fresh water source or supply will be contaminated or lost". So the agency issued a Cease Order halting all operations at the site.

This isn't the first accident in the area - in July a TransEnergy drill pad had a gas leak, and the month before it was an explosion at a gas rig near Moundsville. Though there's been a lot of drilling in the areal these three accidents coming so close together, has the folks in West Virginia wondering just how safe the influx of Marcellus drilling is. 

"Considering the fact that Marcellus Shale natural gas producers have moved into West Virginia's Northern Panhandle on such a large scale .... concern is mounting about just what long-term impact the area may face if these accidents aren't stopped," Casey Junkins writes in the The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

So far, drillers in West Virginia have been cited for close to 470 violations in the past 20 months. Pennsylvania drillers may have their Mountain State brethren beat (1435 violations in the last 30 months) but for an industry that claims it wants to be in the area for the next 50 years, these numbers are too high.

Especially when, as Junkin's article notes, Chesapeake plans to drill in the vicinity of parks and businesses sometime soon.One industry spokesman pointed out that the problems have "nothing to do with geology" - apparently it's just a "matter of having the proper safeguards in place". 

No kidding! The problem - if residents can't trust the industry to make sure those safeguards are ..... safe, then they aren't going to want drilling in their back yards. Or their parks. Or anywhere else, for that matter. 

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