Concerns rise again about shale drilling

A Cornell University study scheduled for release next month raises questions about the environmental impact of natural gas drilling, specifically the escape of methane into the atmosphere from pipelines involved in shale well development.

The draft version of ecology professor Robert Howarth’s report, shared with The New York Times earlier this week, questions whether natural gas is as green as advertised since much more greenhouse gas methane is escaping than previously thought.

“More research does need to be done about the impact of methane from deep shale [drilling],” said Brady Russell of Clean Water Action, a Marcellus Shale critic.

Energy in Depth, a natural gas and oil industry group that set out to “debunk” the documentary “Gasland,” disseminated a “Five Things To Know about the Cornell Shale Study” e-mail painting Howarth’s data as “irrelevant to the Marcellus Shale.”

Calls to Gov. Tom Corbett’s press office went unreturned yesterday. During his March 8 budget address, Corbett said he viewed Marcellus Shale drilling as “the foundation of a new economy … not just something new to tax.” He more recently indicated he’d consider an impact fee on drillers that would stay in affected communities.

Travis Windle of the industry-friendly Marcellus Shale Coalition cited an American Petroleum Institute statement deeming the study “an exercise in selective data and manipulated methodologies used to reach conclusions that deliberately contradict mainstream science.”

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