Monday, December 14, 2009

Underused Drilling Practices Could Avoid Pollution

Underused Drilling Practices Could Avoid Pollution
by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - December 14, 2009 12:00 am EST

As environmental concerns threaten to derail natural gas drilling projects across the country, the energy industry has developed innovative ways to make it easier to exploit the nation's reserves without polluting air and drinking water.

Energy companies have figured out how to drill wells with fewer toxic chemicals, enclose wastewater so it can't contaminate streams and groundwater, and sharply curb emissions from everything from truck traffic to leaky gas well valves. Some of their techniques also make good business sense because they boost productivity and ultimately save the industry money -- $10,000 per well in some cases.

Yet these environmental safeguards are used only intermittently in the 32 states where natural gas is drilled. The energy industry is exempted from many federal environmental laws, so regulation of this growing industry is left almost entirely to the states, which often recommend, but seldom mandate the use of these techniques. In one Wyoming gas field, for instance, drillers have taken steps to curb emissions, while 100 miles away in the same state, they have not. More>>>