HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and other Democratic members of the Senate held a virtual press conference Tuesday to discuss legislation to increase transparency and oversight of management of gas drilling in the fracking industry.

Eight recommendations were made based on the report of a two-year investigation that included testimony from homeowners that live within proximity of drilling sites and current and former state employees, according to a news release from PA Senate Democrats. Findings of the report include: numerous families, close to wells or other industrial sites, described unexplained rashes, sudden nosebleeds, and respiratory issues.

Senate Democrats aim to usher in reforms through bills that were specifically recommended by the Grand Jury report.

The eight reforms detailed in the release include:

  1. Expanding no-drill zones in Pennsylvania from the required 500 feet to 2,500 feet;
  2. Requiring fracking companies to publicly disclose all chemicals used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing before they are used on-site;
  3. Requiring the regulation of gathering lines, used to transport unconventional gas hundreds of miles;
  4. Adding up all sources of air pollution in a given area to accurately assess air quality;
  5. Requiring safer transport of the contaminated waste created from fracking sites;
  6. Conducting a comprehensive health response to the effects of living near unconventional drilling sites;
  7. Limiting the ability of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection employees to be employed in the private sector immediately after leaving the Department;
  8. Allowing the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General original criminal jurisdiction over unconventional oil and gas companies.

Senators Santarsiero, Collett, Muth, Sabatina and Comitta will sponsor and co-sponsor bills that directly respond to the recommendations and the urgent need for action.

“Under this package of bills, citizens and others could report potential environmental crimes directly to the Attorney General’s office for investigation without having to go through other agencies first,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “This would speed up the process for investigations and convictions for environmental crimes and make it clear to potential polluters that damaging our land and water will be met with real consequences.”

“For over ten years, Pennsylvanians have been left in the dark about the cumulative health impacts of the extraction industry and often have no idea what kind of harmful chemicals are being used right in their backyard or leaching into their water supplies. The recommendations included in report one of the 43rd Statewide Investigative Grand Jury Report are commonsense, proactive measures that will increase transparency about the hydraulic fracturing process,” said Senator Muth.

Marcellus Shale Coalition, who represent drilling companies, released the following statement to Eyewitness News:

“For the tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians who work hard each day to safely provide the clean American natural gas that powers our communities, schools, hospitals, local businesses and the manufacturing sector, there’s no higher priority than protecting the environment and public health. Despite what some suggest, Pennsylvania’s world-class regulations have earned high marks from independent, oil and gas reviewers and are focused at every step of the way – with our industry’s strong support – on ensuring safe natural gas development and transportation. The unconventional gas industry has long-supported efforts to ensure DEP has the resources it needs to carry out its duties effectively, transparently disclose chemical use prior to becoming law, adhere to stricter setback requirements and drive innovative water recycling practices. These proposed bills, based on the Attorney General’s report that state environmental regulators called ‘factually and legally inaccurate’, jeopardize the shared economic and community benefits of shale gas development all while threatening family sustaining jobs across our Commonwealth.”

MSC president David Callahan

Senator Yaw also released the following statement reading in part:

“Pennsylvania’s standards are among the most protective in the nation. Act 13 of 2012 raised over 40 environmental standards including appropriate handling of waste and protecting water resources. Pennsylvania’s Impact Tax has provided over $100 million to DEP and county conservation districts to enforce our environmental standards. To protect communities, we have enacted new pipeline safety standards and emergency response requirements all while guiding billions of dollars in investment to Pennsylvania, providing countless jobs for local residents, ensuring significant energy savings for consumers and improving air quality for all.

Office of State Senator Gene Yaw (R-23)

Reporter Cody Butler will have more on this story tonight on Eyewitness News.