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Cemeteries: The Next Drilling Frontier?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

By Alex Rindler, Government Affairs Assistant


When it comes to drilling in the Marcellus Shale, the natural gas industry leaves no stone unturned.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported that Huntley & Huntley, Inc., a self-described "God fearing" oil and gas company, has 11 cemeteries under lease in Washington and Allegheny Counties, including 200-acre Calvary Cemetery, where the remains of three of Pittsburgh's mayors now rest.

Even the most ardent (and well-paid) industry supporters have taken exception to this kind of urban energy exploitation.

"I'd have a tough time putting a rig down next to my tomb or next to anyone I'm related to," said Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania Governor and one-time consultant to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, whose president made headlines in April for admitting that the industry she represents was responsible for contaminating state drinking water supplies.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Americans have called for an end to the exemptions enjoyed by natural gas producers from major environmental laws that protect public health.

According to the state's Department of Environmental Protection, natural gas production has increased 60 percent in the past six months, due largely to a new method of gas extraction called high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing. There are more than 1,600 active Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania alone.

[Photo Credit to Katie Brady and Flickr]

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