Your Opinion: Guest Column: By John Williams: Forming an opinion about the gas industry
My first experience with a natural gas company goes back to between 2005 and 2006. A landsman approached me about signing a lease. I looked at what he was proposing, which at first sounded quite interesting. But after reading over it, I decided it wasn't for me. I was then again approached in 2007 with leasing at a higher price. This is when I thought it was time to do a little research on what this leasing was all about.
After some research on the Marcellus shale and finding out that a boom was about to over take our area (Bradford County, Pa.), it was time to find a reasonable gas company that would work with me on adding a few addendums to help me be at ease with this new-found investment. It wasn't hard to find one though, because there was a landsman knocking at my door every other day at that time.
Most of the gas industry's representatives seemed knowledgeable when questions were asked of them. If they were not able to answer at that time, they got back to me in a reasonable amount of time with an answer. We all know of Google and most of us have access to computers nowadays. You would be surprised what you can find on there to help you out.
It didn't take long for the gas companies to set up shop once they had enough land leased to start their drilling process. Land was cleared for pads and heavy traffic flooded our roads. It seem as we were being invaded by outsiders from about every state in the country. I was so curious about what was going on, I would talk to everyone who would give me the time to talk about what was happening in my area. All the new people I met always seemed to address me as "sir," which is something that I am not used to in this area. Everywhere I looked out my front door I saw construction changing the landscape and asphalt of local back roads being crushed. I wondered what was going to happen now.
But once the drilling eased up, the roads were rebuilt not just repaired. The outer slopes of the pads and the gas lines were seeded with a mixture of native grasses. All that seemed to be missing was a few trees. Quiet has returned to my area. Seems like every three months or so some traffic does occur again for a few days - heavy water trucks running about. The entrance of one local roads became somewhat muddy and slippery one day, which I felt was hazardous. I emailed the company about the situation that was occurring and it was brushed clean in a matter of hours.
The gas industry that came to our area seemed to be standing up to what they said they would when questions had been asked of them at the time of signing a lease. But as many know, along came a movie called "Gas Land." This movie made little sense to me. I moved here almost 20 years ago and have heard many stories about bubbling creeks and burning water long before any landsman came knocking on my door. What they were saying was nothing new to me. I felt that the gas companies were responsible in what they were doing. They are the pros. Yet I heard about polluting of water wells, waste pits on well pads leaking and multiple fines of all sorts! Not knowing if these issues were true or false, I decided to find ways to do field research on my own to make a better decision.
Besides just spending hours of riding around and talking to people, I went to a few local town meetings that were gas related. At these meetings both parties got to speak - the pro-gas attendance and the anti-gas. I did hear of a few water problems at some of these gatherings but it always seemed to be a certain isolated location where these problems were. I heard about fluid spills on sites, which I believe could happen in this business as we all know humans do make mistakes and machines do break down.
After hearing these things, I needed to do research even further to see how responsible gas companies were. I was able to get on a few tours that the gas companies offer. If you ever get the chance to go on one of these tours, I strongly recommend that you do. This is a little what to expect: First you are well informed where you are about to go. You are given safety equipment that you must wear before entering the site. All drilling and fracking sites have security at the entrance and you must check in with your group before entering.
Once I was on the site I was very impressed with some of the things I saw. The rig itself is set on a platform, which also seems to have a liner laying on the surface with barriers around it to catch any spills. Large engines in a row, containers that I assume held water in them for drilling and any other pieces of equipment, all seem to have liners under them in case of any spilling that might occur.
Our group was allowed to enter trailers where operators were watching over all activities being performed on the site. Caution and safety were the biggest concerns I observed. I didn't see any drilling waste pits. The companies now use what they call a closed loop system, which means all fluids are contained. I did notice vacuum trucks close by that are used in case of a spill.
The economy in this area has benefited from the arrival of the gas industry. Their donations and help at the time of the flooding were countless. As new issues arise in this expanding development of our area, I will continue to do a little research on whatever they may be. Don't let someone form your opinion, form your own. We in this area do live on a vast amount of natural gas. This gas is needed to help our country meet our nation's energy needs. I feel that we need to do our part to become more self-sufficient. There is a price to be paid in all what we do. We need to share those responsibilities in doing the best that we can to do these things safely.
John Williams is a Towanda-area resident.