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June 13, 2011

Day 3 on the Marcellus Shale: Bradford County, PA

My final day in northern Pennsylvania was spent with the people of Bradford County, the most heavily drilled county in PA.  Many of the stories I've read about natural gas drilling came out of Bradford County and today I was going to find out why.

Currently, there are 25 different energy companies drilling in Bradford County operating close to 500 active drill sites.  There are also 1,300 drilling permits split among these companies, meaning not even half of the county has been tapped yet.  With an industry that is moving at such a fast pace, safeguards need to be put in place to monitor drilling and keep our air, water and communities safe.

Another interesting piece of the natural gas boom in Bradford County is the ripple effect it has on other aspects of life.  The most obvious is the extreme increase in truck traffic throughout the county.  A once short five minute drive from one end of the town of Towanda to the other is now a stand-still, traffic jammed, 20 minute commute.

This traffic has taken a large toll on the quality of roads as well.  Constant road construction only adds to the traffic and noise levels around the county.  Because these roads are so heavily relied on by trucks of the gas industry, companies invest nearly 10 times more money rebuilding and resurfacing the roads of Bradford County than the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The ripple effect does not stop at the roads of Bradford County, as homes and apartments also see drastic price increases.  As demand for housing new drill pad operators increases, supply cannot keep up with this booming industry.  This drives up the cost of rent, forcing many longtime residents out of their homes and into the streets.  This is a serious problem that is often overlooked by many who debate natural gas drilling.

This past week has been eye opening experience for me.  Seeing drill pads first-hand and living in the drilling environment many live in every day is something that I will bring back with me in the fight for natural gas reform.  If you would like to join in this fight to put drilling safeguards in place and protect our air, water and health of our people, check out our Hydrofacting Activist Network and become a member.

Jason Pitt is the Associate Press Secretary for the Sierra Club's National Gas Reform Campaign. Last week he was in Pennsylvania all week touring natural gas drilling sites, meeting with activists, and learning more on the issues the Keystone State is facing with natural gas drilling.


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