Natural Gas Drilling Nightmare Described by Pennsylvania Farmer

Range Resources, a natural gas drilling company with <"">hydraulic fracturing operations in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale, has been running commercials there for months now touting the economic benefits of fracking. The TV spots feature property owners who have signed natural gas drilling leases with Range Resources expounding on the ways their leases have positively impacted their lives. But recently, one Pennsylvania farm who signed on with Range Resources detailed a very different experience – one that he has termed a “nightmare.”

According to a report on, Ron Gulla, a farmer from Hickory, Pennsylvania, was among a half-dozen speakers to tell cautionary tales about the fracking boom underway in Pennsylvania during a public forum Tuesday night in Elmira, New York.

“When I saw what was happening on my property, I couldn’t believe it,” Gulla said. “They totally misinformed us and misrepresented the lease.”

Since he signed his lease with Range Resources, Gulla said he has lost control of his property. It has become an industrial site, and even his water supply has become tainted. The problems have made his property worthless, something he learned when he tried to take out a loan – using his property as collateral – to finance a lawsuit against Range.

Gulla also told the assembled crowd that many of his neighbors in Washington County have had problems since drilling commenced. Livestock has been sickened, calves have been born with deformities, and people living near compressor stations that pollute the air have suffered health problems, he said.

“It’s been a nightmare for a lot of people,” Gulla said. “You’re going to hear some people say this is the best thing that’s happened to them, that it’s the best thing since sliced bread. And they’re making money, granted, but at what price, and what risk?”

Fracking is a drilling technique that involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. The chemicals that make up that fracking fluid are cause for concern. They may include, among other things, barium, strontium, benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols. All have been linked to health disorders when human exposure is too high. Thanks to a move by Congress in 2005, fracking is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a result, frackers don’t have to disclose the chemicals that make up there fracking fluids.

Pennsylvania, which sets atop the natural gas rich Marcellus shale, has become ground zero in the debate surrounding fracking. Environmentalists are concerned that those chemicals could make their way into water supplies. In Pennsylvania, fracking has been named a suspect in several instances of water contamination.

In New York, fracking has been particularly controversial. The state’s natural gas-rich Marcellus shale region includes the entire Catskills watershed that provides New York City with all of its drinking water. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has had gas drilling permit approvals on hold since 2008 while it conducts an environmental review of fracking, but that could be lifted at any time.

Earlier this week, the New York State Assembly approved a bill that would impose a gas drilling moratorium in the state until May 15, 2011. The bill must still be signed by the state’s governor.

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