A peer-reviewed 52-page study released yesterday by the new natural gas institute at SUNY University at Buffalo (UB) finds that environmental problems caused by Marcellus Shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania were isolated, mostly minor and on the decline (a copy of the full study is embedded below).
The study analyzes the data from more than 3,533 Marcellus wells drilled since 2008 in PA by over 100 drilling rigs. The study makes the following conclusions, including assigning a percentage probability for how likely it is for a major environmental event to occur:
- Of the 2,988 notices of environmental violations (NOVs), the majority (62 percent) are administrative violations or violations issued to prevent pollution from occurring. The remaining citations (38 percent) were in response to an event that impacted the surrounding environment.
- Of the 845 incidents that caused measurable amounts of pollution, 820 were classified as non-major, and only 25 involved major impacts to air, water, and land resources. This implies that over the 44 months surveyed, there was a [0.7 percent] probability of a major environmental event.
- Of the 25 problematic incidents that involved major environmental impacts, six cases did not have their environmental impacts completely mitigated.
- Both the number of environmental violations and subsequent environmental events that caused some physical impact on the environment steadily declined over the past four years, in conjunction with action by state regulators. Notably, the percentage of wells resulting in a major environmental event declined significantly; an indicator that the attention of regulators was focused on the areas of greatest concern. The foregoing suggests that surface activity, rather than the drilling or development process itself, remains the greatest ongoing risk.
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