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Bay Blog: shale gas development

May
30
2013

Scientists recommend further monitoring of natural gas extraction sites

Natural gas resources underlie almost half of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but some of the regulations that govern Bay cleanup do not take extraction-related pollution into account.

According to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), more research is needed to track the environmental effects of natural gas extraction and to help jurisdictions determine whether or not they must implement conservation practices to offset potential pollution loads and meet the Bay pollution diet.

Image courtesy WCN24/7/Flickr

The pollution diet, or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), limits the amount of nutrient and sediment pollution that can enter the Bay from across the watershed. According to STAC, hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has the potential to change local pollution loads, as natural gas extraction increases the erosion of sediment into local rivers and withdraws water from area sources, altering aquatic habitat and river flow.

In a factsheet released this week, STAC outlines the recommendations that the panel made following a workshop on shale gas development. STAC recommends that the Bay Program incorporate natural gas drilling into the Bay Watershed Model, which estimates the amount of nutrients and sediment reaching the Bay. STAC also recommends that the industry, scientific and policy-making communities continue to research shale gas development and implement conservation practices to lower natural gas extraction’s cumulative impact on the Bay.

Read more about the environmental effects of shale gas development in the watershed.



Feb
06
2013

Report recommends further research to determine effects of “fracking” in Bay watershed

While research continues to shed light on the environmental effects of shale gas development, much more remains unknown about the risks that the process known as “fracking” could pose for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

According to a report released this week by a panel of scientific experts, additional research and monitoring—on sediment loads, on forest cover, on the best management practices that might lessen fracking’s environmental impact and more—must be done to determine how hydraulic fracturing might affect land and water resources in the region.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Hydraulic fracturing is a process that works to extract natural gas and oil from beneath the earth’s surface. During the process, a mixture of water, sand and additives is pumped at high pressure into underground rock formations—in the watershed, this formation is known as the Marcellus Shale—breaking them apart to allow the gas and oil to flow into wells for collection.

The process can impact the environment in a number of ways. According to the report, installing shale gas wells requires clearing forests and building roads, which can impact bird and fish habitat and increase the erosion of sediment into local rivers and streams. Withdrawing water from area sources—an essential part of gas extraction, unless water is brought in from off-site—can alter aquatic habitat and river flow. And the drilling process may result in the accumulation of trace metals in stream sediment.

Read more about the environmental effects of shale gas development in the watershed.



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