Monday, June 27, 2011

Faulty Drilling Processes Net Fine for Fracking Company

by Duane Craig

Fracking in PA
The recent announcement that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Chesapeake Energy $1.1 million for shoddy well casings and cementing at their fracking operations, sent a bit of a chill through the hydraulic fracturing industry.

DEP claims the company didn’t build the casings or do the cementing properly and that led to shallow gas contamination of water wells and the Susquehanna River. People who’ve had wells contaminated didn’t think the fine meant much to a company that routinely spends millions to get a drilling platform set up. Many are still going forward with a suit against the company.

Meanwhile, Chesapeake and other fracking companies, have been collecting water well samples before drilling begins, according to industry consultants who have access to that data. The drilling companies, according to a former Pennsylvania environmental official, won’t release that information because they fear it will taint property values for the people whose wells are sampled. Others speculate the companies won’t release it because it provides a baseline sample that proves the hydraulic fracturing process increases the risk of water well contamination.

News of the fine and its effect on the company’s stock price probably explains better than anything why fracking continues, and probably will intensify. Chesapeake’s share price only slumped 40 cents on the news.

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