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October 21. 2013 12:00AM
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Gas stink only

least of worries

Williams, operator of a gas pipeline that transports Marcellus shale natural gas to market, claims that it had provided ample notice to area emergency responders about a planned release of natural gas and mercaptan. What has been called a “breakdown in communications” resulted in a minor emergency at Dallas High School, with many students fearful about the odor that filled the air. A few claimed to suffer from headaches.

Although the explanation offered was that the odor was caused by mercaptan, the event had been scheduled as a “natural gas release.” One is left to wonder about whether what ended up happening was actually what had been planned.

Lucky that those students at Dallas High School are not required to breathe in the toxins that spew from a compressor station. This type of industrial operation originally had been proposed for the Dallas site. Dallas residents came together and opposed the building of the compressor station. The same scenario later played out in the borough of Wyoming. Luzerne County residents’ willingness to fight the shale gas industry has produced some positive results.

Mercaptan stinks. But there are worse things the shale energy industry is willing to put into the air. Compressor stations run at all hours, and atmospheric conditions sometimes occur that cause the fumes to collect near the surface. As this mercaptan incident has shown, air currents don’t discriminate about which direction they move things along.

Scott Cannon


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