Thousands of feet below the earth?s surface, spanning an area from Southern New York through Central and Western Pennsylvania and covering most of West Virginia, large quantities of natural gas is trapped within the Marcellus Shale ? a black shale formation between impervious layers of limestone. The Marcellus region is now home to the largest shale gas ?play? in the United States as recent developments in drilling technology have now made recovery of significant quantities of this gas possible. Total estimates of recoverable gas from the region range from 260 to over 450tcf representing an economic value approaching one trillion dollars.
The large-scale drilling operations in the Marcellus region involve a variety of industries and resources leading to an industrial and economic boom in the region. However, along with the resulting boom, come possible pitfalls. We are beginning to see litigation from the exploration of this vast resource, and anticipate the litigation to increase as the industry matures.
In fact, many believe that the trends in future litigation will follow the lifecycle of industry. For example, in the early development one could expect litigation as a result of:
- More aggressive extraction in the region
- New players in the field ? including increased interest by developers in the west who are unfamiliar with the region
- The need for new infrastructure to support development
As the industry matures one could anticipate:
- Increased employment litigation, including deliberate intent filings in West Virginia
- Toxic torts and class actions resulting from alleged water pollution and stream contamination
- Claims stemming from methane contamination
- Industrial accidents including explosive gas mishaps
If you would like additional information about Marcellus Shale drilling, please contact Jim Mulhall or Jim Wright.
Attorney Karen Kahle hosted a webinar this week entitled, "Managing Risk in the Marcellus Shale: What are the Liabilities and How Can I Avoid Them?" Click here to view or download the webinar.