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Pennsylvania Gas Wells Go Unreported for Months

February 4, 2011

Delays in industry reporting of new shale gas wells in Pennsylvania are violating state laws.  DEP requires reporting within a 30 day window, but as this ProPublica article explains, some wells were drilled and fracked up to 5 months prior to ever reporting,  some were never reported at all, and paperwork from others is missing.

The records the DEP wants “report the depth of the well and the geological formations the drillers encountered. They also contain details of the cement and casing that surround the well and prevent gas and fluids from leaking and polluting aquifers.”  Without these reports, the DEP doesn’t even know the wells are active.  This is especially important during the fracking stage of the process as Susan Harvey, a petroleum engineer states “The highly pressurized fracking fluids tend to follow the path of least resistance, and a faulty cement job can provide an easy exit.”

Most disturbing however is the fact that spokespersons from the DEP said “the reporting delay doesn’t present a danger because in most cases the department relies on inspections, rather than the reports, to ensure that wells are drilled to code. When inspectors can’t make it to a site, she said, they keep in touch with drillers by phone and e-mail.”   Not having a paper trail and potentially not visiting an actual industrial site to see what is being done there doesn’t seem to be covering all the bases when it comes to public health, environmental concerns, and catching violations.

Even with quadrupling the size of the DEP staff in recent years, keeping up with this gas boom is proving to be a challenge.  According to the article, approximately 9,000 wells were inspected by DEP last year out of the 21,000 plus that have been drilled since 2005 and another 6,100 well permits were issued….all this with a mere 65 inspectors.

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