Marcellus Shale: fracking for 80% less

Originally posted at AMERICAblog.

This is a big deal – the Marcellus Shale natural gas field is becoming like the new ANWR, only instead of being in the Alaskan wilderness, it’s a gas field that runs through the highly populated east coast and midwest. Instead of risking the health and well-being of rare animals as in ANWR, fracking in Marcellus Shale risks the health and well-being of millions of Americans. For energy companies want to get at this gas, they have to use a violent, destructive process called hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking), that pipes water and sand deep underground to force the gas out. Fracking is as nasty as it sounds, producing highly toxic byproducts that contaminate groundwater. Bloomberg reports that US government geologists have dramatically reduced their estimate of the amount of natural gas that can be extracted by fracking in the Marcellus Shale formation:

The U.S. will slash its estimate of undiscovered Marcellus Shale natural gas by as much as 80 percent after a updated assessment by government geologists.The formation, which stretches from New York to Tennessee, contains about 84 trillion cubic feet of gas, the U.S. Geological Survey said today in its first update in nine years. That supersedes an Energy Department projection of 410 trillion cubic feet, said Philip Budzik, an operations research analyst with the Energy Information Administration.

Coincidentally, just a few days ago law enforcement superhero and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed a number of energy companies under the Martin Act, alleging that they weren’t being honest with investors about how much gas were in their wells.

Investigators have requested documents relating to the formulas that companies use to predict how much gas their wells are likely to produce in the coming decades. The subpoenas, which were sent on Aug. 8, also request documents related to the assumptions that companies have made about drilling costs in their estimates of the wells’ long-term profitability.The investigation will be watched closely in the industry because the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, is using a New York law called the Martin Act that gives him broad powers over businesses and allows him to obtain and publicly disclose an unusual amount of information.

Subpoenas were sent to the three companies — Range Resources, Cabot Oil and Gas, and Goodrich Petroleum — according to the sources, who have direct knowledge of the investigation. Mr. Schneiderman also broadened a continuing investigation by his office into a fourth company, Chesapeake Energy, asking it to respond to similar questions about its shale gas wells, they said.

One of the reasons Schneiderman has taken interest in these energy companies is that New York State pension funds have heavily invested in these companies. Schneiderman has an obligation to help protect the State’s investments, especially if the companies haven’t been honest with investors.

It’s also worth noting that in addition to Schneiderman challenging yet another powerful corporate lobby, he’s also going against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who has sought to end a moratorium on fracking in New York. Seriously – where can we get a few dozen more Eric Schneiderman’s to help get this country back on track?

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