The debate rages about health effects from “fracking” for natural gas. One thing we know for sure now: It is becoming harder to ignore the risks at groundlevel. Drilling companies are racking up environmental violations for dumping and spills. And the increased traffic from industrial trucks and other heavy equipment means more risks for those on the road.
The first natural gas well in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region, was installed in 2004. Since 2008, the number of wells has skyrocketed. In 2006, 27 wells were drilled in the northern Pennsylvania counties along this area rich in natural gas deposits. In 2008, 227 wells were drilled. In 2011, as of November 30, 1,765 wells were drilled. See “A Preliminary Examination of Marcellus Shale Drilling Activity and Crime Trends in Pennsylvania,” by PennState’s Justice Center for Research, January 12, 2012. http://www.justicecenter.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Marcellus-Shale-Drilling-and-Crime-Trends-in-Pennsylvania.pdf
Leaving aside (just for now) the impact from this drilling boon on Pennsylvania’s drinking water supply and on human health, there is no doubt about consequences up at the surface. The Penn Environment Research and Policy Center earlier this month issued an analysis of which drilling companies are the worst offenders when it comes to violations of state environmental laws. Relying on data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the group identified 3,355 violations of environmental laws by 65 different drilling companies. Of these, 2,392 violations were deemed likely to pose a direct threat to the environment. In other words, these were not merely paperwork infractions.
Drilling companies like Cabot Oil and Gas and Chesapeake Appalachia, the Penn Environment analysis found, were found to have poor erosion and sedimentation plans, improper waste management improper wastewater impoundment and actual discharges of contaminated wastewater. See http://pennenvironmentcenter.org/sites/environment/files/reports/Risky%20Business%20Violations%20Report_0.pdf.
Evidence continues to mount on the extent of violations on the roadways of Northern Pennsylvania, where so much of the frenzied drilling is taking place. Over three days in October 2010, Pennsylvania state police waged a crackdown on commercial trucks hauling fracking wastewater in Bradford, Susquehanna, Clearfield, Tioga and Washington Counties. The State Police issued hundreds of citations, including some 208 that were serious enough to warrant taking the trucks off the road altogether.
In mid-March 2011, the Pennsylvania State Police waged “Operation FracNet,” a two-day campaign of truck inspections. The operation involved spot inspections of 731 commercial trucks involved in hauling fracking wastewater from drilling sites. Of those inspected, more than 100 trucks were considered to have such serious violations that they were taken out of service. In addition, 14 drivers were placed out of service.
There are at least two important lessons from all of this. First, BE CAREFUL when you are out on the road in these areas.
Second, if you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck, make sure you contact a law firm with attorneys experienced in handling these kinds of complex cases. Our main office is in Philadelphia, but we handle cases throughout Pennsylvania.