We’re excited to announce the 2017 update to our Pennsylvania FrackFinder data set. Using the USDA’s most recent high-resolution aerial imagery for Pennsylvania, we’ve again updated our maps of the state’s drilling sites and wastewater impoundments. Our revised maps show Pennsylvania’s drilling sites and wastewater impoundments as of October 2017.
Our previous Pennsylvania FrackFinder projects identified the location of active well pads in imagery from 2005, 2008, 2010, 2013, and 2015. Our new dataset maps the drilling sites and wastewater impoundments that appeared on the landscape between October 2015 (the end of our last update) and October 2017 — the end of Pennsylvania’s 2017 National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) flight season. We are happy to add the 2017 update to this already rich data set.
The goal of our FrackFinder projects has always been to fill the gaps in publicly available information related to where fracking operations in the Marcellus and Utica Shale were taking place. Regrettably, there are often discrepancies between what’s on paper and what’s on the landscape. Permits for individual oil and gas wells are relatively accessible, but the permits are just approvals to drill: they don’t say if a site is active, when drilling and fracking began or ended, or if development of the drill site ever happened at all.
We compared permit locations against 2017 NAIP imagery to determine whether drilling permits issued since the close of our 2015 Pennsylvania FrackFinder project were active. There were more than 3,100 drilling permits issued in Pennsylvania during our study period (October 11, 2015 to October 4, 2017). Many of the drilling permits issued were located quite close together. Ultimately, we ended up with roughly 701 unique “clusters” of drilling permits to investigate and map.
We look forward to seeing how the public will use these revised data sets. We hope researchers, NGOs and community advocates can use these unique data sets to gain a better understanding of the impact of fracking on Pennsylvania’s environment and public health.