Coming face to face with gas-drilling ‘impact’
I doubt the pros and cons of Marcellus Shale drilling will be
settled anytime soon. One side contends that gas drilling carries
minimal impact, won’t contaminate water and the environment, and
brings with it huge economic gains.
Those with concerns about drilling argue that the practice does
contaminate groundwater, is an intrusion on the environment and,
while it may benefit landowners, it does nothing for those who
can’t sign a lease but have to live with the impact.
The best way to form an opinion — or choose a side if you will
— is to see what gas drilling looks like for yourself. I did last
week, during a fishing trip in Bradford and Wyoming counties.
I came away with a good look and an opinion.
Temporary or not, gas drilling brings a major impact to the
environment and the landscape in general. As I traveled dirt roads
that at one time were forgotten, I was amazed to see them
transformed into industrial highways. Company pickups and water
trucks provided a constant flow of traffic on what used to be
remote dirt roads. Some drove slow while others sped on the dirt
lanes. Some vehicles were from “around here” while many carried
plates from other states.
It was a change.
As I rounded a bend on a dirt road that headed into the
mountains, I came face to face with an elaborate, sprawling
drilling rig in an old hay field. The topsoil was piled up to the
side to make room for the drill pad. Large stone used to make a
lane for trucks split the field, and a tangle of machinery and
pipes stood high over the landscape.
It was clear that the place I turned to when I needed to escape
from civilization was no longer the same.
I pressed on, knowing that a few miles up the road I would reach
the hills that had long been prime hunting destinations. Old farm
fields flanked by mountains thick with evergreen and oak provided
years of memorable hunting trips. It was here that I shot my first
deer, hunted rabbits with my beagle and learned to call turkeys in
the fall with my dad.
Surely, I hoped, these hills and fields would be spared from the
drilling frenzy. But they weren’t.
The hilltop where I hunted fall turkeys was cleared of all its
trees. A gravel road cut through the old fields that led up the
hill, and trucks, workers and machinery prepared to place a well
pad on top. My hunting paradise, my escape, had now become an
industrial site. The place is no more but a memory.
That’s an impact.