Legislators Start to See the Light on Marcellus Shale Fracking

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Fracking photo by Flickr user rcboddenI don’t want to say fracking is bad, although I have a heavy suspicion it is. The truth is, we just don’t know if it’s bad for the environment, and bad for human, animal, and plant life.

Although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence pointing to a terrible environmental impact, we don’t have hard scientific data, and that leaves enough ambiguity for policymakers and industry to ruin our environment in the meantime.

But a few new developments at the EPA and in Harrisburg are making me more optimistic than I was just a few weeks ago.First, the EPA is including Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale sites in its wide-ranging study of the environmental effects of fracking. From EnviroPolitics:

The Marcellus Shale in Washington County, PA was one of two sites selected for prospective case studies where EPA will monitor key aspects of the hydraulic fracturing process throughout the life cycle of a well.  The second case study will focus on the Haynesville Shale in DeSoto Parish, La.

Five retrospective case studies were selected and will examine areas where hydraulic fracturing has occurred for any impact on drinking water resources. The Pennsylvania locations chosen for this portion of the study are in Bradford, Susquehanna and Washington counties.  The other locations are in North Dakota, Texas and Colorado.

Excellent. After reading this ProPublica super-piece (um, it’s super and it’s really long), I was appalled at the lack of scientific data we have on the effects of hydraulic fracturing, and the lack of regulation surrounding it.

Rep. Kenyatta Johnson of Philadelphia has introduced a proposal that would require drilling companies to disclose exactly *what* is in fracking fluid. Currently, that’s considered a trade secret, so we’ve got no fracking clue what’s being pumped into the ground.

Next, Corbett’s Secretary of Health Eli Avila wants to create a database to track claims of health effects of fracking. That’s actually a big step from such a pro-business, pro-fracking administration. Nice work.

Finally, the legislature is coming around to the idea of imposing impact fees on fracking wells. This makes perfect sense, but without the environmental/health impact studies, we’re just grasping at straws as to the amount drillers should pay. That’s worrisome, but not as worrisome as the Corbett proposal to allow our environment and health to be wrecked for free.

Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Nanticoke, and several colleagues unveiled a proposed amendment that sets a $17,000 per Marcellus well base impact fee, removes a model zoning ordinance requirement for towns receiving impact fee revenue and rearranges some spending priorities from what a bill pushed by Senate Republicans includes.

The senators acted as the timetable for action on the state budget appears to be slipping into next week with reports that Gov. Tom Corbett and Senate GOP leaders are still negotiating how much to spend to restore proposed cuts to public education and state programs. Ongoing budget negotiations are productive, but it’s too soon to say when an agreement will be reached, said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, Chester, on Wednesday.

PS – Every time I see the work fracking I think of Battlestar Galactica. #nerdalert!

About Greg

I founded Keystone Politics in 2004. Now I make stuff on the Internet for a living.
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