|An abandoned, unplugged well in PA|
So what's the problem with these wells? If they are not properly plugged, they provide pathways for methane to travel into the atmosphere, adding greenhouse gases to an already growing climate catastrophe. They also provide pathways for chemicals and methane to flow from a current well into groundwater or drinking water wells.
This is the problem:
|graphic from NPR article|
There are thousands of abandoned and unplugged wells, and drillers - and state regulators - don't know where they are. Back in 2012, the PA Department of Environmental Protection estimated there were about 200,000 abandoned wells - and that was before companies started drilling in the Marcellus.
This isn't just a Marcellus Shale problem; Alberta faces a growing number of abandoned wells. When the price of oil or gas declines, the companies just walk away - leaving the government to clean up after them. Alberta does have an "orphaned well" fund that helps cover the cost but - especially with deeper wells - remediating a site can cost up to $1 million and take 10 years. Responsible drillers don't do that to their neighbors.
Wyoming is facing the same problem, now that the gas boom is going bust. They've got more than 4,000 methane-bed gas wells to locate and plug - because the companies who drilled the wells up and left. Granted, coalbed-methane wells are shallow, and only cost around $10,000 apiece to plug - but that adds up to $30 million - and, say regulators, the newer wells are deeper and cost tens of thousands more to plug. Once again, corporations pocket the profit and leave the public with the cleaning tab. Responsible drillers don't do that to their neighbors.
Despite evidence that drilling contributes to impacts to public health, including low birth weights, premature births, and increased hospitalizations of people living near drilling sites; decreased air quality (even if you live hundreds of miles away from the actual drilling site), potential human-induced seismic activity, and decreased water quality, the Candor town board is convinced that "everyone" in town wants to be fracked. They fully intend to pass a resolution supporting gas-fracking at their November 10 board meeting.
The proposed well isn't in our town, one board member pointedly told someone during a previous meeting, so why are we all upset? (Maybe because air and water contamination don't respect town boundaries?) On the other hand, the proposed well isn't in our town, so why is our town board so headstrong adamant about passing this resolution? Could it have something to do with the old-boy network? Or the fact that our town supervisor traveled to Harrisburg, PA a couple days ago to meet with Pennsylvania lawmakers about how our town can secede from NY?