Conservation groups debate working with drilling industry
BY KEVIN BEGOS Associated Press
Saturday, November 24, 2012
11/24/12 at 5:44 AM
PITTSBURGH - As a natural gas drilling boom sweeps Pennsylvania and other states, conservation groups are debating whether it makes sense to work with the industry to minimize impacts to the environment - and whether to accept industry donations.
The big question is "how to deal with this overwhelming impact," said Phil Wallis, executive director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Audubon Society.
The drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has made it possible to tap into deep reserves of oil and gas but has also raised concerns about pollution. Large volumes of water, along with sand and hazardous chemicals, are injected underground to break rock apart and free the oil and gas.
Over the past five years, thousands of new wells have been drilled across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, and hundreds of miles of pipeline have been laid to transport the gas to market. And that's just a snapshot of a similar boom in Texas, Colorado and other states.
Wallis and the Pennsylvania Audubon chapter discovered that even casual conversations with the drilling industry can generate controversy.
In August, Audubon partnered with the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, and the Ruffed Grouse Society to hold a series of gatherings for birdwatchers, anglers, hunters and hikers to ask questions about drilling. The meetings didn't attract much notice until it emerged that some had discussed whether the industry might donate $30 million to set up an endowment to fund research on drilling impacts.
Two more public meetings with outdoor groups are scheduled for December, said Steve Forde, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
"The sportsmen and conservation communities are an important part of Pennsylvania's heritage and key partners in responsible shale gas development," Forde wrote in an email.
Original Print Headline: Groups consider ties with drillers