PA Environmental Groups Make Commonsense Recommendations

According to paenvironmentdaily.com’s David E. Hess, the PA Environmental Council (www.pecpa.org) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation of PA (www.cbf.org/pa) have jointly submitted a legislative proposal to the Corbett administration and state lawmakers designed to help ensure safe and responsible gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. They are two highly-regarded environmental groups who understand the need for Pennsylvania to “get gas right.” The entire proposal can be viewed at http://www.pecpa.org/marcellus. Here, the main recommendations:
o    Increasing Buffer Distances: Increasing the buffer distances between well operations     and nearby streams and waterways, including a prohibition against drilling in floodplains     to safeguard against pollution risks;
o    Required, Minimum Inspections: Requiring on-site inspections of each new well site     by the Department of Environmental Protection at several intervals in the well     development process;
o    Increase Bonding: Increasing bonding amounts to cover the true cost of development,     production and closure through the life-cycle of a well;
o    Pipeline, Infrastructure Sharing: Requiring the industry to share pipelines and other     facilities needed for the development and production of natural gas in order to minimize     the surface impacts;
o    Permit Decision Rules: Establish a set of permit decision rules designed to minimize or     eliminate adverse environmental impacts; and
o    Build County Capacity: Increasing the capacity and engagement at a county level for     planning to help avoid or eliminate community impacts, providing resources to     effectively review pipeline and other Marcellus infrastructure proposals and individual     drilling permits, and authorize a host county inspector certified and trained by DEP to  inspect gas well sites, modeled after host inspectors authorized for landfills.

The proposal also calls for a number of tighter restrictions in the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, which is the central piece of legislation regulating the extraction of natural gas in Pennsylvania. It exists to promote the development Pennsylvania’s oil and natural gas resources without sacrificing the health, safety, environment and property of the citizens of Pennsylvania. Additionally, it is the authorizing legislation giving the Department of Environmental Protection regulatory power to protect people and property in areas affected by oil and gas development, and to protect “natural resources, environmental rights and values” in accordance with the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The proposal calls for regional planning to avoid any potential adverse impacts to sensitive public or natural resources at the local level. Such planning should also allow for well site infrastructure to be consolidated so as to minimize its impact on the environment and roadways and to reduce the potential for cumulative impacts. However this planning requirement is not included in the proposed amendments to state law but rather is encouraged at the local level by industry and local government officials.
SOURCE: David E Hess, paenvironmentdaily.com

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