For those who continue to think natural gas is a clean energy alternative, read this story from ProPublica. Natural gas is a fossil fuel being touted as part of our “green energy future”, along with biofuels; a nonsensical claim considering that it emits CO2 when burned. In addition to emitting greenhouse gases when it burns, it must be extracted from the ground by various methods, all of which use toxic chemicals, energy and water. Natural gas doesn’t just flow harmlessly out of a tap you can turn on and off. If people knew more about the toxicity of its extraction process and all the spills that occur, I wonder if they would be so ready to embrace something that is so damaging to the environment. For more information, read about gas drilling’s serious environmental threat here.
(Jan. 27 2010) — As more gas wells are drilled in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, more cases of toxic spills are being reported. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania’s environmental officials fined Pennsylvania-based Atlas Resources after a series of violations at 13 wells, including spills of fracturing fluids and other contaminants onto the ground around the sites. And just last week the agency fined M.R. Dirt, a company that removes waste from drilling sites, $6,000 for spilling more than seven tons of drilling dirt along a public road.
The reports come on the heels of a string of other incidents that have killed fish in one of the state’s most prized recreational lakes and released toxic chemicals into the environment.
The Atlas spills are significant because they are among the latest and because they happened repeatedly during the routine transfer of fluids. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection fined  Atlas Resources $85,000 for the offenses, which took place between May and December of 2009. Many of the spills were discovered by DEP inspectors.
The violations  (PDF) cited by the DEP include spills of fluids from the hydraulic fracturing  process at seven sites, and failure to report a spill at one of those sites. One spill was the result of a faulty pit liner, which is supposed to insulate the ground from hydraulic fracturing fluids after they are pumped out of a well.
Atlas Resources  controls more than half a million acres within the Marcellus Shale, the massive gas deposit that stretches from Tennessee to New York. The company, whose total revenue was $787.4 million in 2008, issued a statement acknowledging that it had entered a voluntary settlement with the DEP and saying that each of the incidents had been corrected. An Atlas spokesman declined a request to answer additional questions about the violations, or about the company’s operations in Pennsylvania.
“If you look at this series of violations — it’s not only that there are multiple violations,” said DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys, pointing to the fact that the same three violations were turning up at each site. “This is a pattern, and it’s a problem.”
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