Mounting Protests and Government Crackdowns Challenge Industry
April has perhaps been the most difficult stretch of time yet faced by companies related to the natural gas drilling industry, especially in Bradford County. The heated rancor of the public was already reaching a fever pitch when Chesapeake Energy’s Atgas 2H well in Leroy Township experienced a serious malfunction on April 19 that spewed thousands of gallons of toxic fracking water, much of which ran off into a tributary of Towanda Creek.
Earlier in the month, state environmental regulators asked the gas companies to voluntarily suspend the controversial practice of discharging extracted fracking water into rivers and streams. Meanwhile, local municipalities are refusing to allow the companies to construct wastewater treatment plants. Citizens in towns along both branches of the Susquehanna River are mounting objections to additional drafting of river water for fracking purposes.
The gas well blow-out and mounting public opposition to almost every aspect of gas drilling prompted Bradford County Commissioner Mark W. Smith to compose a stern letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.
“Issue after issue has arisen in Bradford County in relation to the development of natural gas,” Smith stated at the beginning of his letter. Smith went on to detail several key gas-related issues that have affected the residents of Bradford County in ways, he asserts, that are not being addressed at the state level.
Among his concerns are recent reports that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spends an average of 35 minutes deliberating the approval of new gas well permits. “This is an appalling statistic considering the significant impact of a natural gas drilling site and even more appalling considering that there have been nearly 2,000 gas wells permitted in Bradford County.”