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Fracking's Environmental Footprint to Transform Pennsylvania Landscape

Residents fear that fracking for gas will cause permanant harm to their forests, state parks and agricultural fields — in addition to their water and air

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

Apr 25, 2011

Editor's Note: Some laud natural gas as cleaner burning, home-grown energy — a "bridge" fuel to a renewable future. But others fear the environmental costs of the industry's newest extraction technique — a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or fracking — are too high. SolveClimate News reporter Elizabeth McGowan traveled to Northeastern Pennsylvania in late March to find out how this quest for energy is affecting the landscape and the people who call it home. This is the second in a multi-part series. (Read part one.)

MONTROSE, Pa.—Executives in the energy exploration and drilling industry practically salivate when talk turns to possibilities in Pennsylvania.

Perhaps fittingly, their nickname for the Keystone State is "the Saudi Arabia of natural gas."

Being heralded as twin energy founts, however, is about where the similarities between the natural gas-rich Middle Atlantic state and the oil-laden Middle Eastern nation end. Their geographies are studies in extreme contrast and size-wise, two Pennsylvanias could be shoehorned into just one Saudi Arabia.

Right now, the hydraulic fracturing fever sweeping their state has many Pennsylvanians in turmoil. In addition to concerns about impacts on their water and air, state residents are worried about the indelible footprint fracking infrastructure is in the midst of stamping on the forests, open spaces, rural hamlets, agricultural fields and public lands they call home.

After all, William Penn is the Englishman and Quaker credited with founding the state. Back in 1681 he christened the region Sylvania — the Latin word for woods — for obvious reasons.

So, just how will this hunt for buried energy treasure transform the landscape of a state that draws millions of tourists to its state parks and prides itself on its productive forests?

"This is going to be like a spider web spun across the state," John Quigley, a former state environmental leader, told SolveClimate News in an interview. "The scale of this is just unimaginable. At this point, I don't think anybody can fathom how much."

Quigley served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources from April 2009 until January when a new administration headed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett took office. He is now an adviser to a former employer, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future. Known as PennFuture, it's a statewide public interest organization based in Harrisburg.

"Hydraulic fracturing will dwarf the cumulative impact of all of the previous waves of resource extraction that punctuate Pennsylvania history," Quigley said, ticking off a list of successive destructive acts that began with the clear-cutting of old growth trees across the states northern tier to fuel the Industrial Revolution, then morphed into the drilling of the first oil well in Titusville and the rise of King Coal. "It's impossible to downplay or avoid the environmental impacts.

"Not only is this going to cause massive habitat fragmentation but what emerges will be a fundamentally different Pennsylvania," he continued. "The question is, are we going to repeat the mistakes of the past?"

Why Pennsylvania?

Geologists hail Pennsylvania as a natural gas mother lode because nearly two-thirds of the state's 28 million acres rests atop a yawning sheath of sedimentary rock formed around 400 million years ago during what scientists label the Devonian Period.

What's called the Marcellus Shale is basically a thick horizontal seam undulating anywhere from 4,000 feet to 10,000 feet beneath the Earth’s surface. It measures about 150,000 square miles and stretches from the lower tier of New York State south through parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia and a sliver of Virginia.

The Appalachian Basin is reportedly packed with enough natural gas, experts estimate, to meet the nation's energy needs for nearly two decades — or perhaps longer.

conflict with author's facts

from your story:

Geologists hail Pennsylvania as a natural gas mother lode because nearly two-thirds of the state's 28 million acres rests atop a yawning sheath of sedimentary rock formed around 400 million years ago during what scientists label the Devonian Period.

from Professor Howarth's website:



Over 1.4 millions scientists are greatly concerned about the greenhouse gas emissions effects that this will have on our environment, when developing this MOTHER LOAD shale play.



I point this out because your article is very misleading without printing what I've provided above.....


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