In interviews with The Dominion Post, two WVU professors, a geologist and a water expert, make the case that Marcellus drilling done right can be safe and a benefit to the state. Dr. Tim Carr is the Marshall S. Miller Professor of Energy in the Eberly College Geology and Geography Department and Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz directs West Virginia University?s Water Research Institute.
Dr. Carr admits that he worked in the energy industry for 15 years, but then who better to know gas drilling than someone who has been involved in the industry? He states that while drilling can be messy and can impact local roads, the land and the roads can be and should be reclaimed. The world needs energy, the nation needs energy, and natural gas is a domestic resource that can serve the country for the next one hundred years, adds Carr, pointing out that 84% of gas consumed in the United States is produced here.
Citing studies by the National Energy Technology Laboratory and the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Carr notes that the annual value of the gas produced in West Virginia is projected to grow from $5 billion in 2010 to $40 billion by 2020. Further, Marcellus-related jobs in West Virginia are projected to grow from 5,998 in 2010 to 16,863 by 2020 and tax revenues from West Virginia Marcellus activity are projected to climb from $266 million in 2010 to $872 million by 2020.
According to Carr, it?s also unlikely that fracking will have long-term effects on the water supply. The fracking is a mile or more deep, and isn?t likely to seep thousands of feet upward to freshwater aquifers, he notes, observing that frack water is salty, and water at lower depths is salty, too.
Dr. Ziemkiewicz's chief concern is surface water protection and aquifer contamination resulting from casing failures, not from fracking deep below the surface. He states that if casing is constructed and tested properly, water from Marcellus wells won?t leach into the water supply. He also advocates managed water withdrawals during higher flows to lessen any impact of water use in the state.
Both agree that increased regulation is needed, mentioning increased funding for more inspectors and better tracking of the volumes, quantities and sources of disposal of frack water.