A mail box sits on an abandoned well pipe near blooming peonies, logs snag on metal casings rising out of a creek, children swing next to rusted pump jacks.In Pennsylvania, birthplace of the U.S. oil industry, century-old abandoned oil wells have long been part of the landscape. Nobody gave much thought to it when many were left unplugged or filled haphazardly with dirt, lumber and cannon balls that slipped or rotted away.A home in Pennsylvania with an old pumpjack and tank in front yard.
But the holes — hundreds of thousands of them pockmark the state — are the focus of growing alarm, especially those in close proximity to new wells fracked in the Marcellus shale formation, the nation’s largest natural-gas field. They leak methane, which contaminates water, adds to global warming and occasionally explodes; four people have been killed in the past dozen years.“We had so much methane in our water, the inspector told us not to smoke a cigar or light a candle in the bath,” said Joe Thomas, a machinist who lives with his wife, Cheryl, on a 40-acre farm with at least 60 abandoned wells. Patches of emerald-hued oil leech to the surface, transforming the ground into a soupy mess.Hundreds like the Thomases live over lost wells.
Everyone tends to think of abrupt climate change in terms of weather but the fact is that it is causing changes on Earth that are far beyond just weather. The oceans are warming, the land bases are warming and they’re both changing. Currents are changing in the warming waters and sinkholes and other reactions such as this are happening in the land. Four people dead from a blast like this? That’s just the beginning, folks.