A new deregulation of natural gas drilling that PA Republicans recently enacted allows drilling leases to be pooled for fracking as long as the leases don’t specifically prohibit pooling. This is a lot worse than it might sound because most older licenses don’t prohibit pooling, and right after the law passed, a corporation that lobbied for it filed a lawsuit against some Pennsylvania families and a Pennsylvania business to force them to pool their licenses, taking away bargaining rights for their land they had always had up until a few weeks ago.
Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, which ProPublica reports is “a process used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States, where millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to break apart the rock and release the gas. Scientists are worried that the chemicals used in fracturing may pose a threat either underground or when waste fluids are handled and sometimes spilled on the surface.”
Practically before the ink from Governor Corbett’s signature on the new law dried, there was already a corporation ready to use it against Pennsylvania families. Timothy Puko of TribLive Business reports:
EQT Corp. has sued scores of landowners in Allegheny County for access to their properties under a recently enacted law that gives gas drilling companies the power to combine some neighboring parcels into drilling units without compensating owners. The 69 individuals and one golf course in Forward named in the lawsuit are accused of blocking the company from conducting surveys on their land to determine where to drill for shale gas. It appears to be the gas industry’s first attempt at using the controversial law. … Before the law, landowners could have demanded more money or better legal terms from drillers to include their properties in a pool. The Forward contracts, like most old oil and gas leases, don’t mention pooling … EQT lobbied for the law on pooling, according to state Rep. Garth Everett, who sponsored the legislation.
But a Republican state representative who voted against the law is now seeking co-sponsors in the PA House to repeal the pooling deregulation. Marie Cusick of StateImpact PA quotes State Representative Michele Brooks, a Republican from Crawford, saying “While we need to continue to promote energy production, it is essential that we do so in a manner in which balances the rights of the landowners from which oil and gas are harvested. I believe we need to ensure that each property owner has the ability to fully negotiate the terms under which their oil and gas rights are leased.”
That’s right folks, a Republican fighting against the expansion of corporate power. Progressive Republican Governor Bill Scranton, who I’ll be doing a tribute to in the next day or two as he recently passed away, would be proud.