In Pennsylvania, Marcellus shale drilling is expanding rapidly, with plans to increase revenue by $14.5 billion in 2012. If the expansion continues through 2020, Marcellus could be the largest gas field in the U.S. Meanwhile, Ohio sits over the Utica Shale formation, which potentially holds 55 billion barrels of oil. The state of Ohio expects the drilling of 250 horizontal wells in 2012, and more than 2,250 by 2015.
While many have applauded the increase in domestic natural gas and oil production, what about the environmental and human health costs of this expanded drilling?
According to the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, there have been more than 3,355 environmental law violations by multiple Marcellus Shale drilling companies in the past four years, nearly 2,400 of which were not simple reporting violations. While most of these violations did not cause direct harm to humans, they could potentially cause future health problems for Pennsylvania residents. Furthermore, there were a number of accidents and explosions that caused serious injury.
High pressure gas flowing through a vast number of pipelines could lead to many explosions and injuries in the future. There is a risk of gas explosions, toxic gas leaks that cause illness, tanker truck accidents and other accidents. Lack of supervision and poor on-site safety has also led, and will continue to lead, to injuries and deaths from workplace accidents.
Need for Better Oversight
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania and Ohio governments — let alone the federal government —have been unable to keep up with the expansion in shale drilling. There are not sufficient regulations in place to protect both the workers and the public. And while President Obama recently ordered a panel to oversee fracking (the method used to extract natural gas from the shale), it will take time before we see results.
Some recommendations that policy groups have made to prevent further harm include:
- Increasing bonding requirements for drilling companies
- Requiring better preparation for potential accidents
- Limiting drilling to areas outside of the drinking water supply and other public lands
- Requiring plant operators to pay for private well-water testing
- Requiring better safety rules at worksites
- Increasing federal inspection of drilling sites
- Increasing penalties for pollution-causing actions that violate environmental laws
If you have been injured in a Utica or Marcellus Shale accident, including if you were injured on-the-job, contact a personal injury lawyer with experience representing clients against oil and natural gas companies.