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December 29, 2011

Your Opinion: December 29, 2011

Prepare now for the downsides

New York state residents should assume that deep shale gas production will leave a permanent mark on its countryside over the next few decades and beyond. Unless sufficient steps are taken now to finance the prevention or mitigation of potential damages, future generations will have to figure out how to clean up the hazardous materials and contamination left behind in their water and soil, farms and communities.

Both Pennsylvania and New York have a long history of  regulating shallow natural gas production. But this experience has left an embarrassing legacy of contamination. In Pennsylvania, for example, the Department of Environmental Protection estimates that of over half a million wells drilled, the current status of over 300,000 is unknown.

New technologies used in deep shale drilling present additional and unforeseen regulatory challenges over the coming decades. Orphaned wells are only one of many new and previously unknown potential threats because of the numerous technological differences between the old and new modes of getting gas out of the ground.

What will industry’s legacy  be in New York? To ensure apositive legacy, transformative steps need to be taken immediately at all levels of government and society to prepare the state for large-scale deep shale drilling operations. Do not assume your government will be able to protect the health and well-being of your family, business and communities from the adverse risks that could occur over the next one to two generations. Prepare for the downsides.

Philip Johnson

Pittsburgh, Pa.

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