Geysers, Methane Leaks, and Money in Union Township
If you saw water shooting thirty feet into the air, how would you describe it? A geyser, a water spout, or perhaps — upon learning that the water is mixed with methane and is caused by gas drilling operations nearby — a blowout?
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, it’s “bubbling” and “surface expressions of gas.”
Over the weekend of June 16th/17th, a drinking water well and streams began overflowing and “bubbling” within a mile of Shell’s Guindon K 706 well pad in Union Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. Daniel Spadoni, spokesman for the Pennsylvania DEP, says that Shell notified them on Sunday of the issue and stopped all operations in the area. In a statement on June 21st, Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said that well pad completion work had been suspended “as a precaution.”
On Monday, the DEP took samples from the well and stream and a Shell contractor installed an overflow line in the well and methane alarms in the cabin and vented the well to outside. In an email to StateImpact Pennsylvania, Spadoni says that “Additional surface expressions of gas along the road leading to the hunting cabin were discovered on June 18.” Shell also placed security guards on the road leading into the area to limit access. One wonders, though—if the situation is under control, as Shell and the DEP implies, and the cabin has been evacuated until further notice, what are the security guards for? It seems unlikely that they would be necessary to ensure public safety. Especially when neither “bubbling” nor “surface expressions of methane” sufficiently describes what’s happening in the Wellsboro Gazette’s photos.
As of Monday, June 20th, three days after Shell notified the DEP that there was a problem, the DEP was still screening nearby locations for methane and impacted wells. Said Spadoni, ” No determination has been made regarding the source or sources of the methane, and the investigation is continuing.” Today, StateImpact reported that Shell had reduced the size of the methane-and-water geysers to two feet by flaring off gas from nearby wells, but still had not determined whether the methane came from Shell’s wells or defunct old wells.
How is it taking so long to figure out where the methane is and whether or not methane and water shooting from the ground and overflowing wells have anything to do with Shell’s multiple gas drilling sites in the immediate vicinity?
This might have something to do with it. Earlier in June, Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer broke the story of Corbett’s proposal of a $1.65 billion economic incentive package to bring a Shell petrochemical plant to western Pennsylvania. The plant would take ethane, a chemical harvested in the fracking process, and “crack” it into plastics. Starting in 2017, Shell would get $66 million a year in tax credits over 25 years, in addition to a 15-year tax break that is already guaranteed. On Monday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a news conference held by Governor Corbett to push for the plant’s approval and another press conference that evening, in which lawmakers said they’d made a deal on the credits that would be approved by summer break.
When does summer break start? June 30th. Only 8 days away.
Please use this form set up by PennEnvironment to email your legislators and ask them to stop Corbett from handing over $1.6 billion to Shell, the world’s second-largest company by revenue.
Protecting Our Waters urges you in no uncertain terms to call — don’t just email — your PA legislators to urge them to just say no to this tax giveaway to Shell, the world’s second largest corporation.