The Marcellus Shale, often referred to as "America's next super giant," has generated considerable interest in the Northeastern United States. Producers are leasing vast acreages, drillers are converging from across the nation, and service companies are mobilizing in force. Jobs are being created with local businesses benefitting from the increased activity associated with extracting shale gas. While technological advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed for a footprint significantly reduced from years gone by, and despite positive influxes of revenue, development of the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachian Basin is not without controversy. The speed at which the Marcellus is being developed, coupled with the lack of understanding by the public about a domestic fuel source long taken for granted, is creating a tension over how best to maximize the Marcellus Gold Rush while minimizing the negative impacts on the local environment.
The Marcellus Shale lies amidst some of the largest blocks of contiguous forests east of the Mississippi. More than 72 percent of the Susquehanna River Basin sits above the Marcellus. Consumptive water use to fracture a horizontal well can be in the millions of gallons. Unfamiliar chemicals are being transported and operations continue around the clock. There is no history of activity like this in the modern age in this region. Community groups have formed on both sides of the issues, while government agencies have ramped up their efforts to monitor extraction and consider the Marcellus as a new revenue stream for deficit-ridden state budgets.
This paper will address environmental concerns associated with Marcellus Shale development and explore positive solutions to mitigate local conflict and enhance cooperation. The exigency of addressing issues in the development of this new resource from an industry perspective as well as the local economic and environmental impacts will also be examined.