Despite the risks, natural gas fracking is booming. Most recently, Shell Oil Co. is finalizing where the company will build a new refinery to drill into gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale. The reserves run underneath New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and parts of other states in the Appalachians. Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said the company will decide soon on the refinery and possible gas wells:
“For this project, we are concentrating on three states — Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio — and we expect to have a decision on a location by the end of this year,” op de Weegh told the AP.
The council, in a recent report, estimated the new petrochemical complex could attract up to $16 billion in private investment and create more than 17,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue. Shell’s investment alone could be “several billion,” op de Weegh said.
Shell’s billions may be a potential financial boon for the area chosen; estimates suggest that it could create up to 17,000 jobs. But it does not guarantee the natural gas supply. In August, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Energy Information Administration lowered their estimates for how much natural gas could be in the reserves. And analysts aren’t even sure how fast the existing wells are depleting because reporting about natural gas drilling can vary state by state.
Beyond weighing the economic investment with the possible supply available, fracking can cause numerous environmental problems because of the process used to mine the gas: injecting toxic fluids into the ground to force out the gas. Problems such as water catching on fire or becoming contaminated, wells going dry, and spilling the toxic fracking fluid into waterways. The EPA has even documented groundwater contamination because of fracking as far back as 1987.
GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry may support fracking — even in Iowa — and companies such as Shell will spend billions on technology to keep drilling in the Marcellus Shale reserves. But that does not change the environmental dangers or the health concerns related to fracking that should make anyone pause before approving even more drilling.