While the natural gas industry continues to grow rapidly in Pennsylvania, the likelihood of negative effects on the landscape is also increasing. A report released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) documented highly detailed patterns of disturbance related to the industry development.
Terry Slonecker, a research geographer for the USGS, said the data the study produced will be beneficial to human and ecological health both now and later. “The future’s a relative term, I mean this is data that will be used right now in certain areas, you know, if you were asking questions about small watersheds in those counties that we’ve already done, then you could do that right now,” Slonecker said.
Potential detrimental consequences for ecosystems and wildlife are a direct result of the construction of well pads, new roads, and pipelines used for natural gas exploration procedures such as hydraulic fracturing.
Slonecker said it is still too early to determine the effects the industry has had on the landscape in western Pennsylvania. “The issue is you’ll never get to that answer if you don’t know/ have a very good handle on exactly the level of disturbance that is out there,” Slonecker said.
The data will also be used to assess the effects of disturbance and land-cover change on wildlife, water quality, invasive species, and socioeconomic impacts. Slonecker said the USGS plans to continue to conduct landscape surveys throughout the northeastern United States.
“Eventually, we hope to do West Virginia and New York, and all the Mid-Atlantic, but we’re producing these two counties at a time and next will be I think Allegheny and Susquehanna Counties,” Slonecker said.
This is the second study completed by the USGS as part of a series relating to natural gas landscape disturbance.