Beyond this, frackophobes would be astonished to see how much Anadarko, America’s third-largest natural-gas producer, obsesses over health, safety, and the environment in its Marcellus Shale operations. Anadarko and the American Petroleum Institute discussed these practices during a late-June fact-finding tour they hosted for journalists here in Williamsport, Penn., the thriving heart of what I call Frackistan.
“We live in this area,” says Anadarko production manager Robert Montgomery. “We love the forests here. We want to keep the environment safe for us and our kids.” He adds: “Regulatory agencies have been working with us every step of the way as we have been developing these new technologies. There’s a whole lot of science and engineering involved, and we work side by side, so they know what’s going on.”
Montgomery explains that before drilling, Anadarko identifies flora and fauna near production sites. In Pennsylvania, it uses outdoor cameras to determine which animals traverse the area. This helps Anadarko work with landowners to restore their property, post-production, or enhance it with vegetation that will attract desired species.
A large pond on a small hill belonging to the Elbow Fish and Game Club temporarily holds production-related water for an adjacent development site. After 50 to 100 days of drilling and well construction, and two to five days of fracking, about six to twelve wells quietly will begin to collect natural gas from this field. At that point, the soil excavated for the pond will be removed from storage and returned from whence it came. Anadarko will plant local grasses and flowers, and the place will look largely untouched as the wells yield gas for 20 to 40 years.
A few minutes away by car, several wells are being fracked on acreage owned by a farmer named Landon. A thick felt-and-rubber pad, surrounded by a large berm, prevents potential spills from contaminating Landon’s soil.
A thick rubber and felt pad, surrounded by a four-inch-high berm, is designed to prevent any spilled liquids from seeping into the soil.
“We collect rainwater that falls on the pad,” says a production worker named, fittingly, Anthony Waters. “It’s pumped down the well, not put onto land.”
It would be far cheaper to let rainwater wash over fracking gear and then drain into the soil or roll downhill into a creek. But that’s not Anadarko’s style.