the (new) american worker

Gone Upstate: A Few Shots of Life on the Marcellus Shale

Last week, I took a long, scenic drive upstate to visit the “Valley” – a little smattering of villages on either side of the southern New York/north central Pennsylvania border. I went to get a sense for the area, one that I understood to be chronically depressed and fiercely torn over the prospect of shale gas drilling – for some, an immense resource, for others the worst possible solution to decades of economic decay. The issue is especially prevalent as Pennsylvania has already begun tapping its portion of the Marcellus Shale gas formation, resulting in a sharp uptick in state revenue – in 2009, the state and local tax revenue drawn from PA drilling projects is estimated to have grown 60 percent, from $240 million in 2008 to an estimated $400 million in 2009.

A moratorium on drilling stands in New York, as the state works through regulatory process with “no timeline,” according to DEC spokesman Yancey Roy. Many expect New York to eventually approve drilling on its stake in the Marcellus Shale, but as Pennsylvania still works out its environmental controls – five PA wells were slapped with violations last month – is shale drilling in New York really worth it? I’m writing about that now, for a feature class @ NYU – so for the time being, enjoy some images…

Towanda, PA. If this was a wider shot, you'd see cows grazing to the left. Wonder what they think of their new neighbors...

A producing well (post-drilling). A well like this could produce for up to 30 years, though most output will occur in its first 10.

These orange stakes, ribbons whipping, dot the Bradford County countryside. They are almost comically modest - if one of these spots proves to hold enough shale gas, the landowner just hit the jackpot.