The EPA hearing in Canonsburg last Thursday drew a packed house, with many vocal opponents in attendance. However, the EPA has stated that the meeting was not about drilling policy, but instead to take questions about their impending study of ground and surface water contamination. Nevertheless, opponents and supporters have already drawn their battle lines. Some opponents, including the Pittsburgh City Council and members of the New York State legislature have called for a drilling moratorium until the EPA completes its study. Considering the economics involved, a probable increase in natural gas demand and the lobbying power of the natural gas industry I wouldn't hold my breath on that happening.
Meanwhile, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Corbett, was challenged by an environmental group to return a $3000 campaign donation from Anadarko Petroleum of Texas. Corbett has refused and claims to be interested in how Anadarko and others conduct there business. Its unclear if he was saying that accepting money from Anadarko would help him keep an eye on them, which would be strange logic indeed. Anadarko owns part of the well leaking into the GOM and is a major driller for gas in Pennsylvania. They won a no bid contract to drill on PA public land from the current Rendell administration .
The battle over shale gas is just beginning. Natural gas produces less emissions than other fossil fuels, an infrastructure is in place, more homes use gas for heating, many power plants in New England have converted to NG, fertilizers are made from gas, and the shale gas is a domestic product. But it still produces CO2, may help prolong a wasteful exurban culture that should be allowed to die, hydrofracking can have enormous environmental costs* and in the end there may not be as much there as the salesmen say there is.
BTW, The Pennsylvania State Geological Survey has made available on-line a nice little presentation on the Marcellus Play for those looking for more background.
*Although I don't think the problems are alleged ones getting all the attention. The hydrofracking process usually occurs well below groundwater aquifers and natural gas can naturally seep into water supply. But contamination can occur through cheaply cased wells and improperly disposed waste. Plus every drill site is a small scale industrial/construction operation and is disruptive because of that.