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Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction (MSGE)

Updates | Recent Presentations | Groups & Community Action | FAQ's |

  Photo credit (left): Christine Baker, The Patriot-News - Natural gas drilling rig; Photo credit (middle): Cover photo for the Susquehanna River 2008 Calendar by Tim Senft, York, PA - Susquehanna River; Photo (right): Natural gas drilling rig  


CHEC's Marcellus Shale activities are being funded by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. The Heinz Endowments has also contributed significantly to CHEC's research & education surrounding natural gas drilling.

See the calendar below for CHEC's upcoming events:


Visual Assessment Manual Now Available

CHEC, along with several other organizations, has developed the following manual for use in assessing natural gas drilling threats as part of the Citizens Surveillance Project: PDF. You may download & print this manual freely. Click here to learn more about the Citizens Stewardship Project.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Pipeline & FracTracker Collaboration

We are proud to announce an exciting collaboration between FracTracker & a project run by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - called Pipeline. The collaboration will help to inform the PG's expansive readership about the diverse issues surrounding natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region - especially in Washington County. For this project, FracTracker's DataTool will provide a platform for data collection & map creation. Visit Pipeline | Learn More

FracTracker on Sustainability Now's Radio Talk Show

Samantha Malone of CHEC discussed how came to be & how it is being used to track & share shale gas drilling data. - Sustainability Now (11-12-10) - Listen»

What Do We Need To Know? Potential Public Health Impacts of Natural Gas Extraction

On August 27th, CHEC conducted a symposium at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) on the potential public health concerns associated with gas extraction activities, especially those occurring in the Marcellus Shale region. Below are the panelists & presentations:

    1. Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd - CHEC director of operations - Presentation
    2. Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH - BCHS dept. doctoral student, GSPH & CHEC communications specialist - Presentation
    3. Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH - Assistant professor, GSPH Department of Environmental & Occupational Health, & CHEC director - Presentation

    Presentation on potential air impacts from Marcellus Shale activities by Dan Volz to the Allegheny County Health Department - Presentation

Beginning the Research

January 2010

CHEC & partner organizations are currently developing PA-based networks & proposing research projects that will help to conduct surveillance on MSGE & research its impacts on public health & the environment. CHEC & partner organizations are collaborating on these efforts with the hopes of preventing unnecessary ecological damage caused by MSGE, while recognizing its potential economic benefits to this region. More information will be available about this process in the near future.

In addition to these efforts, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission is conducting field inspections of active drilling sites.

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GSPH's Recent Presentations about Marcellus Shale

12/15/11 Lycoming County Medical Society
Goldstein BD; Williamsport, PA
12/2/11 Public Health Issues: Marcellus Shale Trends and Issues
Goldstein BD; Dauphin County Bar Association, Harrisburg, PA
11/22/11 Marcellus Shale policy issues
Goldstein BD; GSPIA Master’s level policy analysis course, Pittsburgh, PA
11/18/11 Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction Conference
Goldstein BD (speaker & coordinator), Barchowsky A (moderator & coordinator), Clougherty J (moderator), Burke D (host), Pitt B (host), Kriesky J (coordinator), Malone S (coordinator), Gillooly S (coordinator); Hosted by GSPH, Pittsburgh, PA. Learn more
11/16/11 Marcellus Shale physician education planning meeting:  PA Medical Society
Goldstein BD; Harrisburg, PA
11/15/11 McKean County Medical Society
Goldstein BD; Bradford, PA
11/14/11 United Jewish Federation evening open house on Marcellus Shale
Goldstein BD; Jewish Community Center, Squirrel Hill
11/9/11 Indiana County Natural Gas Task Force
Kriesky J; Indiana, PA
11/2/11 Health and Environmental Funders Network
Kelso M; Webinar
11/2/11 Presentation
Malone S; American Public Health Association annual meeting, Washington, D.C. Learn more
11/1/11 Marcellus Shale Panel
Ferrar K (presenter), Malone S (moderator); American Public Health Association annual meeting, Washington, D.C. Learn more
10/31/11 Public Health Issues Related to Hydrofracking
Goldstein BD; University of Michigan, MI
10/22/11 Tri-State Occupational Medicine Association
Goldstein BD; Cleveland, OH
10/15/11 Natural Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale: Process, Trends, Community Concerns
Malone S. CME Session, PA Medical Society annual meeting. Hershey, PA. Presentation
10/15/11 Peters Township Marcellus Shale Awareness Conference
Kriesky J; Canonsburg, PA
10/15/11 Wilkins School Community Center Ecofest
Kriesky J; Pittsburgh, PA
10/13/11 Earth Talk Radio Interview
Malone S; Washington, PA
10/12/11 Rotary Club Luncheon
Goldstein BD; Erie, PA
10/4/11 Cooperative Extension Educators Multistate Regional Meeting
Goldstein BD; Penn State University, State College, PA
9/28/11 Eastman GenOn Citizens Advisory Panel
Goldstein BD; Eastman Chemical Co., Peters Township, PA
9/28/11 Data Tools for Water
Malone S & Widdows M; 3rd Annual Water Innovations Alliance Conference. Boston, MA. Presentation
9/27/11 Marcellus Shale and Public Health
- Bernard D. Goldstein, MD - Luncheon Speaker
- Kyle Ferrar, MPH - Technicalities & Controversies
- Drew Michanowicz, MPH, CPH - Potential Ecological Effects
- Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH - Community Health & Public Health Preparedness
PA Public Health Association annual meeting. Philadelphia, PA.
8/11/11 Pennsylvania Enforcement of Natural Gas Drilling Meeting by Earthworks
Kelso, M; Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Violation, Inspection, and Enforcement Data on Pittsburgh, PA. PDF

All Archived CHEC Presentations | Upcoming CHEC Events | Jump to Top

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Marcellus Shale, how is it different, & why the sudden interest in it?


The Marcellus Shale is a rock formation that underlies much of PA & portions of New York & West Virginia; it is believed to hold trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. Until the recent advances in drilling technology & the rise in gas prices, this formation has long been considered prohibitively expensive to access. This means that northcentral & northeastern regions of PA may see increases in gas well drilling.

Extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation requires both vertical & horizontal drilling, combined with a process known as ‘hydraulic fracturing’ that uses far greater amounts of water than traditional natural gas exploration. Drillers pump large amounts of water mixed with sand & other fluids into the shale formation under high pressure to fracture the shale around the well, which allows the natural gas to flow freely. Once the hydraulic fracturing process is completed, the used water, often referred to as “frac fluid,” must be treated to remove chemicals & minerals. PA DEP

What is the size of the drill pad?

The drill pad will range from 3 acres to about 5 acres depending on the company & what they plan on doing on the pad. Some companies will also include water reservoirs on the pad while others will not. Crushed rock will be applied to the pad surface to help control mud & dust during the drilling & fracing processes. Penn State

What happens to trees that are on the drill pad when it is cleared?

The best place to deal with pad timber is in the lease agreement. There are many options, but your set of options will be affected by the gas company's policy. One option for the landowner is to deal with merchantable timber himself/herself by working directly with a forester. Have the forester determine the timber value & then the landowner would sell the timber either by bid or negotiation. Non-merchantable timber would need to be felled & disposed of.

Another option is the gas company will purchase the timber. Some companies will have the timber appraised by a forester, pay the landowner & then they will sell the timber to recover their costs. Some companies will cut the non-merchantable timber & then have it chipped. Other companies will offer the landowner a flat rate for the timber without an appraisal. It may benefit the landowner to have the timber appraised by a forester independently. Having the help of a forester will be of benefit to the landowner in negotiations with the gas company. Penn State

Must the gas company restore the drill pad after drilling & fracing?

During the pad construction process the topsoil will be pushed to one side for use after the drilling & production activity. When the drilling activities are completed the pad will be restored to approximately the same contours as before drilling. Some companies routinely remove the rock to reuse elsewhere, others do not. The top soil will be placed back on the pad & the area reseeded. Penn State

Who keeps watch over this process?

The PA DEP is responsible for reviewing & issuing drilling permits, inspecting drilling operations, & responding to complaints about water quality problems. DEP inspectors conduct routine & unannounced inspections of drilling sites & wells statewide. Other agencies directly responsible for monitoring the effects of drilling on water quality & aquatic life include:

Who regulates leasing of mineral rights in PA?

A mineral lease is a private contractual agreement between the owner of the minerals & the producer (i.e. a drilling or mining company). County courts hear suits for property damage or disputed lease matters. DEP recommends that landowners who are contacted by companies wanting to purchase or lease mineral rights consult an attorney who is familiar with oil & gas law before signing any documents. PA DEP

How are drinking water supplies protected?

PA law requires drillers to case & grout wells through all fresh water aquifers before drilling through deeper zones known to contain oil or gas. This casing protects groundwater from pollutants inside the well, & keeps water from the surface & other geologic strata from mixing with & contaminating groundwater. PA DEP

What if drilling changes the water quality or flow in my water well?

Disruption of water quality or flow in water wells from drilling activities is often temporary. However, if problems persist, state law requires drilling operators to replace or restore water supplies affected by drilling. If you are not satisfied with the drilling company’s response, you should contact the nearest DEP regional office. DEP will investigate complaints within 10 days & issue orders as necessary to replace or restore your water supply. PA DEP

Who should I contact if I believe drilling activities have affected water resources or caused pollution?

Contact the nearest DEP Regional Office if you suspect drilling or any other earth disturbance activities have harmed water resources or the environment. Regional office phone numbers can be found in your phonebook or online at

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Page last updated:
November 22, 2011