Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Recent incidents raise issues on drilling, environment"--Shreveport TImes

By Alisa Stingley
Blanche Jefferson lives in Shreveport, but her worries are all south of here.

Her granddaughter and five great-grandchildren live south of Spring Ridge and close to where 17 cows died after ingesting liquid that spilled from a nearby natural gas drilling rig site into a pasture.

"I'm mostly concerned ... stuff might get in the water," said Jefferson, 79, adding that the family depends on well water.

The environmental impact of drilling has her so concerned that she's rethinking whether she wants to lease mineral rights from property she owns in that area to an energy company in the future.

"Money is nothing if something happened to them," she says of the children.

The Haynesville Shale has brought prosperity to many northwest Louisiana property owners and governments. And nationwide there is an urgency to depend more on natural gas, a clean-burning fuel. However, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing several area incidents:

n April: Seventeen cows died in a south Caddo Parish pasture after ingesting a liquid found pooled in the pasture, a spill from a nearby Chesapeake Energy drilling site. No reports on what killed the cows have been made public.

n May: Fifteen Naborton families evacuated when a Chesapeake well east of Mansfield began blowing natural gas into the air. The air quality was monitored, and a Chesapeake spokesman said there was no threat to public safety or the environment. According to DEQ files on the case, 50 million standard cubic feet of methane gas —the main component of natural gas —was discharged after a casing valve failed.

DEQ doesn't require notification of the release of 1 million standard cubic feet but does require notification of more than 2.5 million in a planned release. The Naborton release, however, was unplanned. Otis Randle, manager of the DEQ regional office here, said 50 million is "a lot of gas." But he said people would not suffer health problems unless they breathed in a concentrated amount.

The main risk to nearby residents is the potential for explosion, and methane causes an adverse impact on the planet's ozone layer, since methane is a greenhouse gas. The DEQ report on the Naborton well said the release did not have an off-site environmental impact. ......... more......