It didn t take long after the mid-term election last week for winners, pundits, and the media to attribute the results to a rejection of a new reform agenda in Washington. Unfortunately, when it comes to energy policy, the elections did deliver a solid victory for the status quo.
Politicians of all stripes and at all levels of government are loudly calling for more extraction of fossil fuels, including natural gas. But when it comes to the need for stronger government regulation and oversight to protect public health and the environment, political voices remain a mere whisper.
Drillers certainly liked what they heard the day after the elections, when former White House aide Karl Rove prognosticated that legislation to stem climate change and regulate the gas industry will simply be "gone" with the new Congress. (Rove s political group Crossroads Ventures spent $300,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey, a lead proponent of the FRAC Act to require companies to disclose the toxic chemicals they pump into the ground.)
Clearfield County, Pennsylvania and the Gulf of Mexico don t seem to have much in common. Different landscapes, environments, communities. But now these far-flung locations are linked by accidents that the oil and gas industry insists are unlikely to happen, and the failure of blowout preventers it considers an adequate safeguard.
When the landman comes knocking, it s tempting to open the door wide. The promises made can be beguiling: fast cash, payments for years to come, and hardly any change on your property. Just sign up now
But harsh reality can set in fast. Maybe it s a road built right behind the house or through a crop field. Or barrels of toxic chemicals stored next to a drinking well. Perhaps the wastewater pond wasn t fenced, so thirsty livestock got sick. And when the royalty check arrives, it s far smaller than expected.
Across the Marcellus Shale region and beyond, there s abundant evidence that a rush to drill without strong regulations causes environmental and health problems. Less well-known is how the rush to lease in the absence of information, legal advice, and safeguards is harming many landowners, as well as their neighbors and communities.
For more than a decade, OGAP has worked to inform property owners about their rights and what to consider before signing a lease most recently at landowner workshops in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The bottle boasted water from "Endless Mountain," a place far away from "the contaminants of air and surface pollution." This should have made me feel good about drinking it except that it was given to me by a Dimock, PA resident whose tap water was contaminated after natural gas drilling came to town. For that, and the resulting weekly delivery of bottled water, she has Cabot Oil & Gas to thank.