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Controversial path to possible glut of natural gas

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“Decades ago, we weren’t careful with coal mining,” wrote Bryan Swistock, a water resources specialist with the Penn State Cooperative Extension, in a recent statement. “As a result, we are still paying huge sums to clean up acid mine drainage. We need to be careful and vigilant or we could see lasting damage to our water resources from so many deep gas wells.”

State environmental agencies and industry experts say multiple systems will be in place to safeguard water.

“The current balanced management approach works – allowing for effective state regulatory programs that appropriately protect the environment while providing for the essential development of oil and gas,” wrote Steph­­anie Meadows, a senior policy adviser at the American Pet­rol­eum Institute, a Wash­ington trade group, in an e-mail response to Monitor questions on hydraulic fracturing.

Where safeguards failed
Still, one can point to examples where those safeguards did not work. New Mexico and Colorado, which have struggled with leakage from frac-water waste pits involving gas exploration, are now moving forward with legislation.

“There are numerous instances in various states of surface water and drinking water contamination from hydraulic frac­­turing,” says Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources De­­fense Council in New York. “Nobody, including the industry, has done any in-depth examination to find out the impact on ground water. We are seeing some bad stuff coming out of individual wells and taps.”

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