US: The Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems at Carnegie Museum of Natural History created a comprehensive new GIS-based database, a one-stop-shop for information about Marcellus Shale-related natural gas development throughout Pennsylvania.
The new database was created in direct response to a need voiced by local governments, environmental and economic researchers, and urban planners looking for a single tool to link isolated datasets from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.
It is one of the first unified datasets to compare essential data about natural-gas well activity in the state, and could serve as a critical resource in future studies pertaining to natural gas development and its possible effects on a seemingly endless number of study areas, including: water quality, air quality, the local economy, public health, social factors, and more.
“These data provide a powerful new tool for our researchers, other scientists, and eventually the public to see where development is happening and then to assess and minimize impact on roadways, wildlife, and people,” said John Wenzel, director of the centre. “Each company only has good records of its own activities, so even the industry itself doesn’t have accurate records of the total scope of development. We provide that.”
Using the resources of the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystem’s GIS laboratory—based at Powdermill Nature Reserve, the environmental research center of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the heart of the Laurel Highlands—the database brings together information from six separate natural gas development datasets all currently available on the DEP’s website.
James Whitacre, the center’s GIS manager, created the new database tool by converting all of the DEP information for each particular well into a GIS format—such as new and existing permits, drilling, natural gas production information, waste production, and violations—generating a holistic representation of activity in any given region.
Because the new tool ties all of the existing information to specific geographic locations, the dataset is ideal for targeted analyses such as verification by municipalities of Act 13-reportable wells or tracking longterm impacts on the local and regional habitats surrounding development areas.