Gas drilling in the news: Love that dirty water

Reuters has been doing a great job lately of following the debate over natural gas drilling in New York State. Their latest article takes a look at the growing problem of disposing of frack water, which is too salty and contaminant-laden for most wastewater treatment plants to handle.

According to the story, there's a chicken-and-egg problem involved: Critics of the practice don't want the state to issue permits without knowing if gas companies can deal with the waste, but gas companies don't want to invest in expensive waste management technology unless drilling is a sure bet.

Around a third of the millions of gallons of water used in fracturing comes back to the surface where it is either reused, stored on site or trucked to treatment plants.

Conrad said companies that can build crystallizer plants -- specialized waste treatment plants that distill salt out of waste water -- are unwilling to make an investment in New York until the state begins issuing drilling permits.

ProPublica also has a story today about Congressional investigation into horizontal drilling and its environmental impacts.

As part of the new investigation by the Energy and Commerce Committee, [Henry] Waxman and subcommittee chairman Edward Markey, D-Mass., sent letters to eight companies, including Halliburton, B.J. Services and Schlumberger, asking for more information about the drilling process and the chemicals it requires.

At the Marcellus Effect, Sue Heavenrich has a story on Chesapeake's recent decision to withdraw its application to dispose of frack water at an old gas well near the Finger Lakes. Heavenrich says New Yorkers can expect long-defunct gas wells to be receiving plenty of interest from companies looking to dispose of frack water:

There are currently 112 active Trenton and Black River wells in New York State. Most of these are located in Steuben County (where Pulteney is located), but more than 40 are located in Chemung County, just a left turn and down the road from me. While the wells are labeled "active" on the DEC website, clicking on their production records reveals that - at least a few of the wells - aren't lining anyone's pockets with income. To a company desperate for disposal options, these wells look like holes in the ground just waiting for frackwater.