What Lies Beneath

Our state is no stranger to oil and gas drilling. In fact, one of the earliest commercial U.S. oil wells was discovered in 1829 by a man boring for salt brine on a farm in Cumberland County.
Nonrenewable resources such as petroleum and natural gas are major sources of energy generation. According to the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, there are an estimated 6,000 shale gas wells producing between 50 and 70 billion cubic feet of gas annually in Kentucky. Many of the wells are located in the Big Sandy gas field of Floyd, Knott, Letcher, Martin and Pike Counties. Another ancient geologic layer known as the Rogersville shale has recently drawn the attention of companies looking to unlock oil and gas from deep underground. The shale lies in a basin called the Rome Trough, which in Kentucky curves southwest from Lawrence County through parts of Central Kentucky and into the southern part of the state. The development of horizontal drilling along with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” now allows for drilling down 2 miles or more and then branching off horizontal lines. The potential to tap into this previously unreachable resource has sparked recent interest from oil and gas companies, causing huge jumps in the number of oil and gas leases recorded in Kentucky counties. Although locking up that acreage does not mean every well will be drilled, the attention is enough to cause concern among residents.

Basics of the Fracking Process

The apprehension stems from the process itself. Fracking involves blasting millions of gallons of high-pressure water directly into the shale layers to create fractures that release oil, gas and natural-gas liquids such as propane and butane locked in tiny pores in the rock. Chemicals are added to the water to dissolve minerals, kill bacteria and reduce friction, while sand is inserted to prop open the fractures.

Unintended Consequences?

The sheer magnitude of high-pressure water fracking operations has many citizens worried about the potential for industrial development and heavy truck traffic in their rural area. Even more concerning are possible spills or leaks that can contaminate the groundwater, seriously harming water quality. Waste disposal in underground injection wells has been linked to small earthquakes. And there’s no denying that fracking adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere through leakage during gas extraction and carbon dioxide release during burning. And, as we’ve seen from the mining and gas industries, worker injuries are another fallout of such hazardous processes.

Questions about a Lease or Concerned about Safety?

Some landowners are worried about the overall effect on the community. Many have been harassed by persistent leasing agents and may have signed leases without a full understanding of the terms. If you are concerned about fracking in your area, if you have been contacted by a leasing agent, or if you simply want more information on this controversial process, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Pikeville, KY-based Johnson Law Firm. We are ready to provide you with a free and confidential initial consultation. Contact us by calling 606-437-4488 or through our online form.

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