Quick Money Or Long-Term Health Concerns?
By Lynn Peeples
POINT MARION, Pa. — Dave Cogar counts down the days until he’s fracked.
Through a haze of cigarette smoke at the Brass Rail bar here, he laments about living on welfare. He still finds jobs where he can — working construction or fixing computers around this small town south of Pittsburgh — but he says he’s fallen short of creating the life he wants for himself and his teenage son.
So he’s come to the conclusion that natural gas hidden in the Marcellus Shale, thousands of feet beneath his rural Pennsylvania land, may offer him a second chance.
About a year ago, he signed a lease with Chevron, one of a handful of energy companies vying for rights to tap the abundant underground gas in this area. Now Cogar awaits an anticipated windfall of up to $300,000 a year for the next decade or so, according to his own estimates using figures a lease salesman ballparked for him, as well as the written conditions of his lease. The money won’t flow in until Chevron starts injecting pressurized fluids into the ground to fracture shale rock and forage for gas, the controversial process known as "fracking," but Cogar believes it will happen soon. Chevron declined to discuss the details of their agreement with Cogar.
"It should be safe, and the money looks good. Now it’s just the waiting. Like Tom Petty says, that’s the hardest part," said the bald-headed and goatee-chinned Cogar between sips of beer. He began belting lines from the song — and other Petty classics — a few moments later, attracting the attention of fellow bar patrons.
The natural gas rush is on in Pennsylvania, as well as in a growing number of other shale gas-rich states such as Texas, Wyoming and Colorado. New York and Illinois are primed to join in. For residents living near the drilling, the easy money to be had by ceding their land to drillers often competes with their concerns about drilling’s impact on their health and well-being.