Panel Discusses Marcellus Shale Concerns For Drilling Within Pittsburgh City Limits

By Pittsburgh Business Times

With many acres leased within Pittsburgh city limits, eight panel members attempted to put into perspective today what Marcellus Shale development will mean for this urban region.

The panel was assembled at the call of Councilman Doug Shields, who said at the begining of the session that he wants to "begin to lift the curtain" on Marcellus drilling. More than 50 people showed, some of them wearing anti-Marcellus T-shirts.

Chuck Christen, an official from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, noted that the impact of the drilling will be recorded not only in production but also in the levels of stress of landowners, need for public safety services, concentrations of air pollutants and other environmental factors.

Christen said among the biggest concerns is making sure that the cement casing that acts as a barrier between ground water and what goes into and out of the well is strong enough to handle the development and keep pollution out of fresh water acquifers.

Michael Huss, public safety director for the City of Pittsburgh, said his department began coordinating its response plans for possible emergencies at drilling sites several months ago. Many potential accidents, such as spills of hazardous materials and fires, are similar to those safety officers are already trained to handle, he said.

But it's the more specialized emergencies that will require cooperation and information sharing with industry, Huss said.

"Any type of drilling that we would have here in the City of Pittsburgh, we would need to make sure we build a partnership with drillers," he said.

Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus regional organizer for landowner advocacy group EARTHWORKS, voiced concerns that property owners were feeling confused and, at times, taken by landsmen who came around with leases but didn't explain the details of drilling in the Marcellus.

She encouraged landowners approached to sign a lease to seek legal counsel.

"An educated landowner is the best partner of the industry," Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said. "There is obviously a huge opportunity before us, but that obviously comes with huge responsibility."

The Marcellus Shale is a rock formation that stretches through much of Pennsylvania. In recent years, several companies have moved into the Pittsburgh area to tap into the shale's natural gas reserves. Chesapeake Energy Corp., for example, has been actively leasing small tracks in urban areas, including Lawrenceville and West Mifflin, through its leasing agent, Dale Property Services Penn LLC.

Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals

http://pittsburgh.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/stories/2010/07/12/daily8.html?ana=thestreet

Copyright bizjournals.com 2010

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