MONTROSE, SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A package of proposed legislation will soon be introduced in Harrisburg to increase regulations on fracking. Pennsylvania Senate Democrats and Attorney General Josh Shapiro met Tuesday to discuss those bills.
These bills are recommendations from a grand jury report. Released last year. Lawmakers now want them passed into law.
Northeastern Pennsylvania plays a key role in the country’s natural gas production.
Thousands of acres used to supply the energy that some critics say come at the landowners expense.
“For far too long fracking companies and regulators turned a blind eye to the health and safety impact of this industry on hardworking Pennsylvanians, their communities and their families,” said Josh Shapiro, (D) Pennsylvania Attorney General.
Nearly one year ago, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro charged natural gas companies with environmental crimes after a two-year grand jury report.
“More importantly the grand jury found evidence that our current laws and regulations simply are not good enough,” said Shapiro.
Eight Senate Bills will be introduced to increase transparency, oversight and safety management of gas drilling.
Senate Bills 650 through 657 include:
- Expanding no-drill sites from 500-to-2,500 feet from a building or 5,000 feet from a reservoir, school or hospital
- Disclose fracking chemicals
- Safer transport of fracking contamination
- Regulate pipelines
- Comprehensive health response of living near a drilling site
- Assess air quality
- Limiting former DEP employees from working in the private sector
- Giving attorney general criminal jurisdiction over natural gas companies
“These reccomendations coming out of the grand jury proposal should of already be law. They should of been in place before a single permit was approved for anything,” said Senator Katie Muth (D) 44th District.
Senator Gene Yaw’s released the following response to the bill package:
“Governor Wolf’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said it best: The 43rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report announced last year is ‘factually and legally inaccurate,’ and a ‘disservice to the citizens’ of Pennsylvania.
Today’s performance for the media is part of the ongoing effort to peddle misinformation and ignore the high standards used in the Commonwealth to regulate natural gas development.
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.
Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the United States and one of largest producers in the world. And yet, the Wolf administration has paid lip service at best to the importance of this multi-billion-dollar industry to the Commonwealth. From day one, the administration has attempted to degrade these employers, who do not rely on government handouts, with a severance tax. This administration has done everything in its power to regulate and restrict the industry into oblivion. In 2019, 700 wells were drilled in Pennsylvania. At the same time, there were 19,485 inspections of the industry. What other employer in Pennsylvania has regulators on its doorstep that many times in a year?
As the industry continues to survive on the world stage, the response is to use the grand jury process to rehash claims, that have been repudiated years ago. Many of these claims were actually rejected in Pennsylvania court cases. Talk about ‘black sludge water’ went out the window with Yoko Ono’s aborted bus trip on the ice in 2009.
It is absolutely embarrassing for a state, which is a world leader in regulation and safety to have such a short sighted and myopic view of an industry of such international importance. Their sentiment – ‘Let’s drive these people out of the state, now. We don’t want them.’ ”
Eyewitness News reached out to Chesapeake Energy and Cabot Oil and Gas for a comment. Both referred us to the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) who represents drilling companies.
Marcellus Shale Coalitions 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