About Amerisurv| Contact    
Magazine | Newsletter    
Flickr Photos | Advertise    
HomeNewsNewsletterAmerisurv DirectoryJobsStoreAuthorsHistoryArchivesBlogVideosEvents
 
advertisement


Subscriptions
Sponsored By

Software Reviews
Continuing Series
     RTN
An RTN expert provides everything you need to know about network-corrected real-time GNSS observations.
Click Here to begin the series,
or view the Article PDF's Here
76-PageFlip Compilation
of the entire series
Test Yourself

Got Answers?
Test your knowledge with NCEES-level questions.
  Start HERE
Meet the Authors
Check out our fine lineup of writers. Each an expert in his or her field.
Wow Factor
Sponsored By


Product Reviews
Partner Sites

machinecontrolonline 


lbszone.com

GISuser.com

GeoJobs.biz

GeoLearn

 

Spatial Media LLC properties

Associates

ASPRS

newsnow 

Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

Vantage Point: Ripple Effects Above and Below Print E-mail
Written by Wendy Lathrop, LS, CFM   
Saturday, 10 April 2010

A 99Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

The most popular saying around one office I worked in was, "You can have anything you want, but you have to pay the price." Both clients and employees heard it frequently. But it applies to life on a broader scale as well, affecting many aspects of the world we live in.

One of our current great economic worries is finding energy sources that are sustainable, renewable, and domestic. The siting of these sources is a major land use problem. Coal mining through either strip mining or the current practice of mountaintop removal creates an environmental nightmare. Oil spills along our coastlines have killed countless birds and animals. Windmills, though a less ominous presence, earn protests because they obstruct views and slaughter birds.

The discovery of a vast reserve of natural gas below the Marcellus shale formations of the eastern states seems to be a great breakthrough in solving our international oil dependencies. Some landowners situated over the gas trapped between the sedimentary layers of the Marcellus formation are ecstatic to be given an opportunity to earn royalties in a manner similar to farmers and ranchers further west on whose land drilling hit liquid black gold. Others are concerned about present and future environmental risks, but reluctantly agree to sign agreements, knowing that the gas beneath their land will be drawn out along with the gas from their neighbors' drillings, simply due to the physics of gas extraction.

Leases are drawn up, drills put in place, and the process of fracturing the shale in order to release the gas begins. But a ripple effect is beginning to raise other land use issues in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and New York, similar to what residents in other parts of the country have already experienced.

Much of this is related to the fracturing process itself, which requires massive amounts of surface water to be pumped thousands of feet down into the rock at high pressure in order to release the gas from the pore spaces and vertical fractures of the rock. The injected water is part of a mixture including sand particles that will keep the resulting fissures in the shale open so that the natural gas from the shale can be extracted through the well. Chemical agents in the pressurized mixture have raised concerns in other parts of the country where this process is in use. Chemicals dumped into waste pits in New Mexico have leached into the water table. Colorado and Wyoming have reported spills and contaminants such as carcinogenic benzene in aquifers, streams, and well water. Methane in groundwater in Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania has been linked to drilling.

Residents in rural parts of northern Pennsylvania now find themselves completely unprepared for the change in their dense forests due to sheer size of rigs used in the current operations. While natural gas drilling is not new in these areas, rigs requiring 80 trucks to transport and well pads requiring four level acres of clearing are a shock. About 660,000 acres of Pennsylvania's 2.1 million acres of state forest are currently leased for drilling; it has been estimated that the Marcellus Shale formation underlines about three quarters of the state's forests.

Obviously, such leases signify a dramatic change in the use of state forests away from recreation. Beyond disappointed hunters whose deer and turkey stalking will be affected by clear cutting and noise, drilling operations represent a dramatic change in traffic. Much of the water required for pressurized fracturing ("fracking") must be brought in by truck to these particular areas. Resulting wastewater must also be trucked away for treatment, translating to hundreds of daily truck trips through the state forests. In at least one Pennsylvania state forest, the balance between the commonwealth's financial interests and the forest's environmental integrity seems to be swinging toward the drillers, who complain about fees for clearing timber and dealing with pesky lease issues with landowners.

In Pennsylvania's Susquehanna County just south of the New York border, residents who signed leases with Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation have joined in a suit claiming that Cabot's operations have polluted their wells with methane gas and other contaminants, destroyed the value of their homes, and caused medical problems. Wastewater spills and the release of dangerous substances through fracking (possibly the cause of smelly, discolored water in 13 polluted wells) form the basis of the residents' arguments.

Hundreds of miles away, in the state's southeastern counties, one wastewater treatment plant acquired a state permit in March 2009 to accept drilling wastewater from upstate. Arriving by truck or train, the water would be treated and then discharged into the Delaware River. But in early December, the Department of Environmental Protection rescinded the permit, saying only, "Mistakes were made".

And so we find a developing crisis in balancing environmental and energy concerns. One issue ripples into another, spreading further afield and affecting more aspects of our lives. Energy. Clean water. Open space. Don't forget private land rights.

We have always heard that real property rights extend from the zenith in the heavens above our land to the center of the earth. However, there are caveats, some written only in legislation and common law rather than in our deeds. We are subject to the rights of aeronautic travel above our lands. We are subject to the rights of the public as held in trust by the sovereign governmental body between high and low water. We have only restricted rights to the minerals beneath our properties, some minerals being reserved to the state and federal governments by statute.

Owners of one Lackawanna County farm were unwilling to sign a gas lease, worried about effects of drilling on two creeks bounding their property, the overall effect on the aquifer feeding everyone's wells, the noise, the clearing of forests, and changes forced upon their rural lifestyle. After neighbors on three sides signed leases, the gas company told the holdouts that it was a mere nicety to offer them a lease, even without horizontal drilling.

In choosing what we want, what price (not necessarily in dollars) are we willing to pay? Whatever the answer, consider the ripple effects.

Wendy Lathrop is licensed as a Professional Land Surveyor in NJ, PA, DE, and MD, and has been involved since 1974 in surveying projects ranging from construction to boundary to environmental land use disputes. She is a Professional Planner in NJ, and a Certified Floodplain Manager through ASFPM.

A 99Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

 
< Prev   Next >

 American Surveyor Recent Articles
Editorial 
Thought Leader: Land is Too Important to Be Left to Land Specialists
A while back I was searching the Internet for an old treatise on land titles. A Google query yielded a book published in 1914. The author was Charles Claudius Kagey and the book was titled "Land Survey and Land Titles, a book for boys and girls, a reference volume for property owners, a text ....
Read the Article
Jason E. Foose, PS 
Decided Guidance: Wacker vs. Price - Irony in Sevenfold
This month's case takes us to Phoenix, Arizona in 1950. The Arizona Supreme Court went all guns-a-blazin' in Wacker vs. Price (216 P.2d 707 (Ariz. 1950)). Maybe it's just me, but I'm sensing plenty of irony and have taken license to point it out along the way. I like what the Court did with this case ....
Read the Article
Allen E. Cheves 
Around the Bend - A Visit to Carlson Software
The Ohio River is one of America's greatest, running near 1,000 miles between Pittsburgh and the Mighty Mississippi. Much of the coal and other products that fueled our nation's industrial expansion flowed between the shores of this maritime ....
Read the Article
Lee Lovell, PS 
Surveying & Mapping Economics Part 3 - Customers & Services
This article continues an inquiry into the economic conditions of the Surveying and Mapping industry (NAICS 541370) using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This time we will look at customers and services. The data comes from the Economic Census conducted every 5 years on American ....
Read the Article
Jerry Penry, PS 
True Elevation: Black Elk Peak
Black Elk Peak, located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, is the state's highest natural point. It is frequently referred to as the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Two other peaks, Guadalupe Peak in Texas and ....
Read the Article
Larry Trojak 
Bringing The Goods - Mobile Scanning an Integral Component
When Jim Smith, Jerrad Burns and Charlie Patton left the Memphis division of a major construction company in 2015, they took with them the knowledge of how to get even the most complex jobs done and what equipment could best serve them in making that happen. So when they joined West ....
Read the Article
 
Lee Lovell, PS 
Test Yourself 41: Integers, Integers, and Integers
ABF is a 5:12:13 triangle, ACF is a 48:55:73 triangle, ADF is a 3:4:5 triangle, and AEF is a 7:24:25 triangle, all with integer sides and inscribed in a semi-circle. What are the lengths of BC, CD, and DE? ....
Read the Article
Wendy Lathrop, PS, CFM 
Vantage Point: Sunset or Sunrise?
While we often think of legislated government programs as static, they do change over time. Such evolution and opportunity for transformation are part of the dialogue in reauthorizing these programs. Every so many years there is a sunset on each government program, and this September is the ....
Read the Article
 

deliciousrssnewsletterlinkedinfacebooktwitter

Amerisurv Exclusive Online-only Article ticker
Featured Amerisurv Events
List Your Event Here
please
contact Amerisurv


Google
 
AMERISURV TOP NEWS

JAVAD Intros
Spoofer Buster

GOT NEWS? Send To
press [at] amerisurv.com
Online Internet Content

Sponsor


News Feeds

 
Subscribe to Amerisurv news & updates via RSS or get our Feedburn
xml feed

Need Help? See this RSS Tutorial

Historic Maps
Careers

post a job
Reach our audience of Professional land surveyors and Geo-Technology professionals with your GeoJobs career ad. Feel free to contact us if you need additional information.

 

Social Bookmarks

Amerisurv on Facebook 

Amerisurv LinkedIn Group 

Amerisurv Flickr Photos 

Amerisurv videos on YouTube 

twitter

 




The American Surveyor © All rights reserved / Privacy Statement
Spatial Media LLC
905 W 7th St #331
Frederick MD 21701
301-620-0784
301-695-1538 - fax