Seamus McGraw

Seamus is a regular contributor to many publications including Court TV's Crime Library, Penthouse, Reader's Digest, Stuff magazine, Spin and The Forward. He has won a number of journalism awards and is currently working on a comic novel set in Pennsylvania's coal country. He lives in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with his wife, Kren, and four children, Miriam, Yona, Seneca and Liam.

Boom and Bust

All over rural pennsylvania, motel parking lots, which just a couple of years ago were teeming with lumbering pickup trucks with out-of-state plates, are nearly empty. So are the hastily constructed “man camps” that not so long ago provided temporary shelter for roughnecks and roustabouts. So are the breakfast joints where they used to eat. …

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The New Marcellus Debate

It has become the new flash point in the battle over the development of the Marcellus, with advocates for development facing off against opponents, not in remote fields in rural Pennsylvania, but all over the region. And it’s not just about drilling anymore. The new battle over the Marcellus is being fought over hundreds of …

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Marcellus Shale: A Tricky Situation

For years, it’s been a common rallying cry among activists that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has coddled its burgeoning natural gas industry at the expense of other state priorities. Perhaps nothing, they contend, has been more emblematic of that cozy relationship than the fact that Pennsylvania is the only active drilling state in the union …

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The Battle for Cleaner Energy

For two days this past summer, the streets around the William S. Moorhead Federal Building, downtown, were ringed with cops and jammed with largely orderly protestors, some in camouflage, others in tie-dyed T-shirts. They were drawn, as they had been at other cities around the country, to make their voices heard on the U.S. Environmental …

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The Export Dilemma

As the Shale-driven production of natural gas has expanded in recent years, so too has the demand from much of the industry to unleash that resource on the world market. And that chorus of voices calling for the United States to use gas from fields like the Marcellus to tap into the world market has …

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Does This Change Everything?

It’s been nearly six months since the state Supreme Court rocked Pennsylvania by striking down key portions of Act 13, Gov. Corbett’s signature legislation on Marcellus Shale drilling. But even now, the full impact of the decision—and what it bodes for the future of the drilling industry in the state—remains unclear. In fact, say legal …

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The Royalty Rub

When Mary Jane Foelster and her husband, Richard, retired five years ago and left Philadelphia for a secluded 50-acre tract of land in Bradford County, they never figured they’d get rich. In fact, until they were about to close on the property, they didn’t even know that the previous owners had signed a lease with …

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Red Flags Rising

It’s been more than a year since Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, stepped to the lectern on a sweltering summer day in Houston and issued a stern warning to a gathering of energy executives. She acknowledged the potential advantages of the unconventional shale gas boom—from increasing the nation’s energy …

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Gauging the Second Term

For months last year, as the campaign for the White House shifted into high gear, opponents of President Obama tried to paint his first-term administration as hostile to the development of domestic fossil fuels, including the vast natural gas resources contained in the Marcellus and Utica shales, as well as other unconventional shale plays across …

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The Marcellus Shale Dilemma

A blistering July—the hottest on record—vaporized heat records in thousands of communities across the country. A historic and prolonged drought settled across a vast swath of the southern and central United States, devastating corn crops and threatening to send the cost of everything that depends on it—from baby food to burgers to the ethanol we …

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The Future of the Marcellus Shale

After eight years of unprecedented expansion, the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania is now weighed down by its own success, analysts say. Struggling with a market that is being flooded with more natural gas than it can bear, the industry is optimistically predicting that new markets in transportation, home heating, chemical manufacturing and other industries …

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The Problem of Price

From the moment the rush began to develop the vast untapped resources of gas trapped in the Marcellus Shale, economists and industry analysts warned that the massive explosion of cash that was pouring into the state—and in many cases right back out of it—would ebb and flow. There would be times of expansion, when drillers …

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Show Me the Money

It was hailed as a game changer. Almost immediately after the first Marcellus Shale natural gas well was spudded in a rocky hilltop in Washington County, unleashing for the first time a vast cache of domestically produced energy, the discovery was hailed as the harbinger of a revolution in energy production that would pump upwards …

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The Utica Shale

A century and a half ago, a desperate, down-on-his-luck former railroad man named Edwin Drake wandered into a remote hollow in northwestern Pennsylvania and stuck a drill a few dozen yards down into the rocky soil. After a few false starts, Drake and his men struck a cache of crude oil that, while small by …

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A Natural-Gas Ponzi Scheme?

It was, on the surface, a devastating indictment: a report in The New York Times, the nation’s leading newspaper, alleging that the natural gas industry—an eclectic and fiercely competitive collection of players that included in its ranks everyone from cowboy drillers to staid overseas nationals like StatOil Hydro—may have joined together in a secret cabal …

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A Toxic Topic

There is no doubt about it. The Marcellus Shale is radioactive, in every sense of the word. In the literal sense of the word, geologists and drillers have long known that each shale deposit has its own radioactive signature. In fact, they have often measured that radiation—from uranium, thorium, radium 226 and radium 228—and used …

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Politics and the Marcellus Shale

It was Nov. 3, one day after the stunning midterm elections that had routed the Democrats and left the party in disarray both nationally and in Pennsylvania. The political landscape was still smoldering when Karl Rove, one of the key architects of that Republican victory, stepped to the podium in a Pittsburgh conference center and …

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Our Water and the Marcellus Shale

The rig, a 70-foot steel spire, soared above the manmade moonscape atop the plateau that Chesapeake Energy’s contractors had hewn out of the hillside on my family farm in Wyoming County. And as my 8-year-old daughter and I trekked along the ridge above it to get a better look, I was struck with an odd …

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A Gas-Based Economy

It was mid-afternoon in late winter, and the public relations man for one of the larger drilling companies in Pennsylvania was driving me back along a rutted country road from a rig we had just visited. He had been extolling the virtues of the state’s vast cache of natural gas, ticking off the ways in …

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Workers Wanted: The Marcellus Shale

It’s early, the sun is just peeking up over those western Pennsylvania hills, and it’s cold and bleak as he pulls into the brightly lit service station-cum-convenience store to fill up the pressed-steel canyon that is the fuel tank of the company-owned Cummins 3500 pickup he’s driving. There’s nothing in the world that Shawn Clark …

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Marcellus Shale: Doing it Right

Oct. 8, 2009, at the Kearns Well near Brush Run, Washington County: As industrial accidents go, this wasn’t a particularly bad one. A valve on a massive water tank had failed. Designed for the low hydrostatic pressures encountered in the flatlands out west, the valve had been no match for the pressures generated by the …

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The Story of the Marcellus Shale

For days, they had been rumbling up the rutted dirt track that led to the top of the rocky dome above the rolling fields of Washington County; a ’round-the-clock procession of big rigs carting up thousands of gallons of water. They’d drop their loads, turn around as best they could in the axle-deep mud that …

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