October 2014 - Developing the Marcellus Shale

Oct 9, 2014
Captain's Log 1XE, Day 15 in the month of September in the Earth Calendar Year of 2014, as the earthly mountains winter is quickly approaching, brrrrr.


How often have we heard the expression "can't see the forest for the trees"?


I grew up on the East coast, and now when I return in a single engine airplane I can for the first time understand the landscape and the topography. It is a land of great forests, hills and lakes, not just a paved place to play stoop ball and stickball. It is not just interstates and metropolises but an undulating region filled with mountains and valleys, rivers and even an ocean. As always, when you look at a place from above, it all fits and makes sense. And it surprised me that this unbroken verdant canopy of forests in Central Pennsylvania was reminiscent of my flights over the rainforests of Central America, with treetops stretching to the horizon.


For years I have been hearing about the spread of fracking, and oil and gas development in the Marcellus Shale play in the East, and I have always wanted to see for myself what is going on and what is at stake. My friend, and EcoFlight board member, Skip Behrhorst invited us to use his airplane, which he bases at his unique and beautiful home in Thousand Islands, New York (on the St. Lawrence River). Skip's Cessna 210 made short work of the distances to areas around Wilmington and Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, for EcoFlight to provide our unique brand of aerial educational tours to people concerned with the burgeoning fracking development.


Untrammeled forests are starting to be dissected by roads and pipelines. Drill rigs rise from otherwise large intact forests. Farmhouses sit next to drilling pads and rigs. These views are impossible from the ground. The aerial perspective is the only way to see the true nature of this industrial advancement.


What is even more disturbing is that there appears to be not much thought given to the proximity of the development to major water sources like the Delaware River. Over a thousand communities in the basin rely on the river and its tributaries for their water systems -- and up to 17 million people, including from such large cities as New York City, Philadelphia, and Trenton, rely upon the Delaware for clean drinking water.


Huge Kudos to the state of New York, which has a statewide ban on fracking. You can literally see the border between New York and Pennsylvania by the stark contrast between the mess of pipelines and frack pads on the Pennsylvania side, and the intact communities and forest on the other.


As in all these issues, this is a matter of public awareness. Everyone, individuals and communities alike, need to weigh in on what is important to them. These are not easy decisions and we hope that the overflights we provided helped passengers to see the "forest from the trees."



Bruce Gordon