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Controversial path to possible glut of natural gas

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“The wells we drill ... are insulated with concrete,” says Chip Minty, a spokesman for Devon Energy, an Oklahoma City-based gas company that pioneered hydraulic fracturing in the Barnett shale formation beneath Fort Worth, Texas. “The purpose is to protect any kind of aquifer or ground water layer. Those processes are controlled by regulatory agencies, and that keeps us safe from any kind of aquifer pollution.”

A pioneer in “best practices,” Devon has also developed a way to purify and reuse frac water. But those techniques are costly and not widely used at present. Whether such practices will be required elsewhere is an open question.

Targets for this new kind of drilling
One huge target is the Marcellus shale basin that spans large parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. States are eager to get to get new revenues – and so are many landowners lining up to sign leases.

“I’ll be glad to welcome the crews with open arms,” writes Al Czervic in the Catskill Commentator, an online publication. “Drill here, my friends,” he writes, “Drill here. And then, drill some more.”

But amid this gold-rush-type fever in the Delaware and Susquehanna River Basins, voices warn that environmental safeguards and industry standards need to be beefed up before drill bits hit – or the great gas boom could exact a steep price in polluted water.

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