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Radio Smart Talk: Abandoned oil and gas wells throughout PA

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Oct 11, 2012 8:59 AM
abandoned-well.jpg

Photo by Scott Detrow / STATEIM­PACT PENNSYLVANIA

An aban­doned, unplugged well near the Allegheny National Forest

Radio Smart Talk for Thursday, October 11:

About 8,000 wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale since the rush to extract natural gas began a few years ago.  By law, the wells are regulated and must have permits.  As a result, the state has records on the wells.

What many may not realize is since oil was first dicovered in Titusville more than 150 years ago, 325 thousand oil and gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania.  Since the state has records for only 120 thousand of them, some 200 thousand are unaccounted for and are abandoned or "orphaned."

StateImpact Pennsylvania's Scott Detrow is reporting on abandoned wells this week in his series "Perilous Pathways."  The abandoned wells could be potentially dangerous because they could allow methane gas to migrate to the surface.  A gas and water filled geyser blew 30 feet into the air in Tioga County this summer.

Detrow will appear on Thursday's Radio Smart Talk to discuss his findings.

StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration between WITF, WHYY, and NPR.  The project covers Pennsylvania's booming energy economy with a focus on Marcellus Shale drilling. 

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Comments: 8

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-11 08:27

    E-mail from K.:

    "Just because a bond is paid by a driller doesn’t mean they will stick around if it is easier or cheaper to just walk away and leave the area unrestored. A perfect example of this is the mountain top mining and deforestation in West Virginia and Kentucky that left leveled top of mountains. The pictures from this devastating practice makes your jaw drop."

  • Rich img 2012-10-11 08:45

    Just to follow up on my suggestion that Centralia become a National Monument (the second highest category of the National Park Service) or at least a State Park. No one seems to be concerned about safety now; there is even a sign that directs to fire area. The smoke does not seem to affect more than a few yards from each hole. Although a sudden cave in is possible, it is likely to be only once every few decades - with slow cave ins a couple times as common. Obviously, picnic areas, and campground (if such were built) should be in safe areas, such as near the Orthodox Church or the still functional municipal building (which could become the visitors’ center).

    Many parks contain areas more dangerous than Centralia Park would be. Note that the second closest National Park , Cayuga Valley in Ohio, is entirely devoted to history, settlement, and industry.

  • Garrie Wakemewhenit'sover Keyman img 2012-10-11 08:46

    Just tuning in. Hearing that the thrust of the conversation seems to be focused on the dangers of greenhouse gasses from leaking wells and the migrating methane dangers they pose. But what about the fact that the fracking coctails these companies are injecting into the earth are highly carcinogenic? There is a dramatic and devastating heath issue here that is being ignored.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-11 08:54

    E-mail from Kristen:

    "There are federal regulations that state we must do historical research prior to road building, pipelines, cell towers and other projects to ensure that we don’t harm existing historic or prehistoric sites or cause environmental harm, so why can’t they take this same principles and apply it to the drilling of new wells? I know that this applies if there is federal money involved, so is there federal money involved in this? But even if not, it seems like a wise thing to do to ensure safety."

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-11 08:56

    E-mail from Kristen:

    "There are federal regulations that state we must do historical research prior to road building, pipelines, cell towers and other projects to ensure that we don’t harm existing historic or prehistoric sites or cause environmental harm, so why can’t they take this same principles and apply it to the drilling of new wells? I know that this applies if there is federal money involved, so is there federal money involved in this? But even if not, it seems like a wise thing to do to ensure safety."

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-12 08:35

    E-mail from Kate:

    "As a former resident of Clarion County I listened with focused attention to today's story on abandoned wells. Your story opened an important and necessary discussion on the long term impacts of well drilling on the environment. I hope you will continue with your research and presentations on this important topic. I would suggest that you might tie this particular story more directly to local listeners by exploring the impact of drilling on water quality. Although there is little coal or gas extraction in our immediate area, we are downstream from these activities, and they ultimately affect our water supply. I remember well polluted creeks where no fish could survive. These formerly living creeks had become the sewers for residue of legacy coal mines, and continue to flow with the orange and yellow discoloration from abandoned mines."

  • swansonB img 2012-10-19 11:08

    Detrow did an excellent job describing the legacy of abandoned/orphaned wells in PA. I need to get myself to that museum in Titusville.

  • Guy Pennsylvanian img 2012-10-19 12:05

    The State should fund a smartphone app that hikers and other naturalists can download for free. The app would let users take a picture of a supposed abandoned well with their phone and send it, along with precise GPS coordinates, to the DEP. Then someone qualified can followup on the tip. Use crowdsourcing to solve the problem.

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