The natural gas boom has led to an “unprecedented industrialization” of many Americans’ backyards, an analysis from the Wall Street Journal has found.
The WSJ looked at census and natural gas well data from more than 700 counties in 11 major natural-gas producing states, and found that at least 15.3 million Americans have a natural gas well within one mile of their home that has been drilled since 2000. That’s more than the population of Michigan or New York.
The boom has left some towns inundated with natural gas operations. In suburban Johnson County, Texas, 99.5 percent of the area’s 150,000 residents now live within a mile of the county’s 3,900 wells — in 2000, there were fewer than 20 oil and gas wells.
And the construction of natural gas wells isn’t letting up anytime soon. Production of the Marcellus Shale region is growing faster than expected, reaching 12 billion cubic feet a day — enough that, if it were a country, the Marcellus Shale would be the eighth-largest producer of natural gas in the world. America will have “a million new oil and gas wells drilled over the next few decades,” a Duke professor told the WSJ. And it’s likely many of those wells could end up in Americans’ backyards — a recent Reuters analysis uncovered the unsettling trend of home developers keeping the rights to oil and gas reserves under the houses they sell, in many cases without notifying the homes’ buyers outright. That way, the home developer can lease the land of an entire neighborhood to a natural gas company — with or without the residents’ consent.