Balancing oil and natural gas production with environmental and safety concerns will always be a hot topic in political and economic circles. No one can dispute the economic benefit to individuals, corporations and government tax bases that domestic oil and gas production is and can continue to be. Hopefully, most should also agree that pursuing these economic benefits should be balanced with the scientific realities of environmental production. The advent of deep horizontal drilling to deeper deposits like that of Marcellus and Utica Shale have certainly been game changers. The market has and continues to go through learning stages and prices and markets have gone up and down. Many companies have ventured into the Appalachian Shale play only to exit the production superhighway through bankruptcy. The environmental concerns with these large and complex production and processing facilities, however, are real.
Don’t forget that beyond these new behemoths of production that smaller scale oil and gas wells have been part of our region for well over 120 years. There are many thousands of old oil and gas wells dotting the maps of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. How to take care of, clean up and plug many of these old and abandoned wells is a major issue. Attempts to find funding and regulatory staff to address these wells is a real problem. A recent news story by CBS News examines the problem of abandoned wells in Pennsylvania. This problem crosses state lines. These old wells are still environmental issues. The plugging and cleanup of those old wells can be a mechanism to create new, good paying jobs. The potential of taking displaced workers who already have fossil fuel work experience and placing them into the reclamation industry is a promising example of how to make new opportunities. Solutions like these should be win-win scenarios. State governments and private investors should jump on these types of opportunities to make the best of all situations and to balance environmental and economic concerns.