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Chesapeake Bay, Marcellus Shale. Living in Harmony?

12/30/2010 7:53 AM
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The Chesapeake Bay Foundation this week released its 2010 State of the Bay Report. I read with great interest, trying to see what things they had to say about agriculture's progress in the watershed.
I was a little surprised, though, when on page 4 of the report, I saw a large picture of a natural gas well owned by none other than, you guessed it, Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest companies drilling wells in the Marcellus Shale formation (the company is based in Oklahoma City, Okla. and as far as I know, is not affiliated with the foundation). 
The picture was followed by a fairly brief overview of natural gas drilling and its possible impact on the environment.
There was nothing earth shattering. No scientific reviews were presented. The foundation steered clear of calling for anything other than a little bit of caution when thinking about gas drilling.
But the fact that they gave gas drilling such high billing in their most anticipated report of the year I think sends a statement: natural gas will be watched closely by the foundation and possibly other environmental groups.
I have been to more than a dozen meetings on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL or pollution diet within the last year. Very rarely did I hear chatter on how to balance the bay's needs with natural gas drilling.
Now with a pro-drilling Republican governor in Harrisburg, it will be interesting to see how this will  play out.
Gov-elect Tom Corbett has made it clear that he supports Marcellus drilling and if his opposition to a natural gas severance tax serves as any indication, it is likely he would support less stringent regulations on gas drilling companies.
At the same time, Pennsylvania, along with several other states in the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed, is under a federal order to lessen the amount of pollutants they send into the bay each year.
It will take years to see how the state plans on juggling both of these big issues and whether or not they will be successful.
 But it looks like we could be in for a fight.

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