After attending several of this year's natural gas exploration and drilling meetings and seminars, the best I can say about them was they created almost as many new questions as they answered. Trying to get a clear layman's answer to what seemed a fairly simple question often resulted in either evasively worded responses or irrelevant dialogs. It was like asking someone for the time and they'd tell you how to build a watch. Small wonder so many people have become frustrated.
I'm not against the ongoing projects to pull gas from the huge Marcellus Shale reserves our area sits atop (estimated to hold almost 170 trillion cubic feet of natural gas), but to be honest I'd like to know what will occur farther down the line, after all these wells and pipelines are finished and moving their valuable cargo to the various accessible use-sites. After all, the entire operation from beginning to end enjoys basically carte blanc freedom with realistically few restraints when compared to other gargantuan environmental and geophysical projects.
The governor is currently seeking to reduce state spending by cutting state personnel and budgets, pretty much across the board. The Department of Environmental Conservation, which was already stretched thin, is the primary watchdog over the entire Marcellus operation statewide, and if it gets pared even a bit more, its ability to inspect and enforce will be diminished substantially. And that might potentially open the door for some gas companies and drillers involved to be tempted to take some shortcuts to bolster profits. Done properly, the inherent dangers of exploring and harvesting natural gas reserves that lie 5,000 feet or more beneath the surface are minimized, but the potentials for something to go wrong is no different than they would be for operating a mine deep underground. For example, what happens if during the fracking process the cement well casing "seal" – meant to keep toxic liquids from entering the upper layer where the aquifer exists – that's forced down the shaft fails, and the entire aquifer in a large area becomes contaminated?