The federal Environmental Protection Agency is testing water in northeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania to determine the extent of degradation, if any, from deep shale fracturing operations that have been concentrated in those two areas.
The state's Department of Environmental Protection is furious. How dare Uncle Sam come into our state with its sample bottles? We don't care that the EPA is charged with ensuring the safety of drinking water throughout the United States. We tested it, the drillers tested it, and we say it's OK.
Bear in mind that the EPA hasn't mentioned shutting down any drilling operations in the state, hasn't spoken the words "fine" or "penalty," or even openly accused anyone of fudging data. EPA personnel are filling bottles from residential taps, conducting interviews and reviewing geological data.
As spoke the Queen in Act 2 of Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much, me thinks."
Just why does the state DEP object to another set of eyes reviewing the data? Is it possible the EPA might not come to the same conclusions? If the DEP was secure it its assessment, one would think that a third party review would be welcomed, if nothing else, than to vindicate its original findings and thus once and forever lay the question to rest.
This is not to intimate that the DEP has ignored Marcellus Shale exploration and production. The state agency has levied fines and other penalties against drillers for shoddy work that can result in pollution, especially in Dimock at the epicenter of Marcellus drilling in northeastern Pennsylvania.
As the Associated Press reports this week: "The company (Cabot Oil and Gas Corp.) racks up state violations at a far higher rate than its competitors in the Marcellus - 248 violations at its wells in Dimock alone since late 2007 - most recently last month, when the company was flagged for improper storage, transport or disposal of residual waste. State regulators levied more than $1.1 million in fines and penalties against the company between 2008 and 2010. And it is still banned from drilling any new wells in a 9-square-mile area of Dimock."
There are still many questions related to deep shale fracturing and its effects, if any, on the public health. Some of the answers have conflicted, others have not been answered at all.