Today is the day that DEP Secretary Krancer has asked Industrial Gas Drillers in Pennsylvania to “stop sending toxic wastewater to 15 treatment plants unequipped to purify it.” The drillers have agreed to comply. To mark the occasion, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran the following editorial, “Save our water” supporting PA State Senator (R) Joe Scarnati’s proposed Gas Drilling Impact Fee. The effectiveness of a such a fee, however, is heavily disputed. And the beat goes on…
Inquirer Editorial: Save our water
A gold-rush approach to high-pressure drilling for natural gas has no place in Pennsylvania. Especially not in the watershed that quenches the thirst of 15 million people in the Philadelphia region and beyond.
So, it’s troubling that, despite their own moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River basin, interstate regulators are moving ahead on preliminary requests by some drillers to pull millions of gallons of water from rivers to the north.
With its drilling moratorium pending the enactment of what must be stringent safety regulations, the Delaware River Basin Commission remains the best line of defense against bringing drilling rigs to the region.
In ways that are yet to be fully understood, the process of hydraulic-fracture drilling, or fracking, poses a threat to drinking water. For one thing, the existing water-treatment infrastructure cannot keep up with cleansing the polluted wastewater that’s a by-product. In communities that rely on wells, a new report that methane gas was found in most of 60 wells tested near drilling sites also should be a major concern.
The commission’s explanation for granting one request for water rights, with three more under review, is that its staff must keep up with the expected workload from such requests. Also, drillers cannot draw any water until the DRBC issues its regulations.
Still, it would make more sense for the commission to focus first on determining whether gas drilling can be done safely in the Delaware basin, if at all.
The arrival of this industry with its potential boost to the state’s economy has been marred too often by a drill-now, regulate-later mentality. It wasn’t until several years into the gas boom that Harrisburg boosted drilling fees and strengthened safeguard.
This week, the state’s largest operator – Chesapeake Energy Corp. – agreed to a record $1.1 million fine for contaminating private water supplies in Bradford County, and for a tank fire at a well site in Washington County.
Such tough enforcement sends the right signal to an industry that says it prides itself on being environmentally responsible. The goal should be to avoid mishaps, which is why the Delaware basin regulators, who represent Gov. Corbett and the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, should move slowly.
With the push to expand drilling, it’s even more vital that legislators enact higher fees on drillers to help both host communities and the rest of the state cope with the stresses put on infrastructure and the environment.
With no leadership from Corbett – who has opposed any drillers’ tax – it’s good to see that state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) has drafted a measure providing for a local-impact fee that, finally, would make drillers pay more of their fair share to minimize environmental damage from fracking.
SOURCE: Philly.com, May 19, 2011
COMMENTS FROM THE PHILLY.COM CHAT ROOM…
“With no leadership from Corbett …who has opposed any drillers’ tax …it’s good to see that state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) has drafted a measure …” – Is this an example of “no leadership” or are Governors now expected to author legislation? Did Gov. Rendell show “no leadership” when he said a tax on drillers was “dead”?
Did PA voters elect officials who display “no leadership” or did they intentionally elect officials who promised not to increase taxes and are now showing leadership by honoring those promises?”
“The Impact fee will disproportionately benefit only those sparsely populated communities where the drilling occurs. It won’t help communities struggling to keep up with toxic, radioactive wastewater treatment in their aging municipal facilities and drill cuttings laced with Radium 226 which end up in their landfills. We need a hefty tax, and a visionary plan with an economic thrust in developing renewables in our state. Without this, thinking of gas as a bridge fuel is nothing more than a pipe dream.”
“radioactive wastewater treatment in their aging municipal facilities” – I’ve read where drillers now recycle almost all of the drilling water.
“drill cuttings laced with Radium 226 which end up in their landfills” – Only landfills certified by the PA DEP can accept such waste.
Also, it’s important to note that Radium 226 is naturally occurring and can be found in ground water: http://pa.water.usgs.gov/projects/waterquality/sepa_rad/
“We need a hefty tax, and a visionary plan with an economic thrust in developing renewables in our state” – The same things were said in California where a cap and tax measure was passed and 33% of power was mandated to come from renewable sources by 2020. Work began to install banks of solar panels in the desert only to be stopped by lawsuits filed by environmentalists who claimed the desert tortoise would be impacted.
It appears that the environmental movement will only be appeased when there is zero energy development.
“Tax the Drillers in PA — to pay for the Environmental and Human destruction – to Land, Water, and People’s future medical bills.”
“why the change of direction from Joe Scarnati? Wasnt that super bowl trip enough? and yeah yeah yeah philly.tru, the one he paid for AFTER the media uncovered the free trip.
“According to the PA DEP, drillers currently recycle 70% of their wastewater,though industry claims are higher. In February, two landfills in South Central PA were approved to accept drill cuttings (Cumberland County and IESI Blue Ridge). And, yes, radium 226 is what causes invisible, orderless carcinogenic radon gas to collect in people’s basements – better to leave it deep in the ground!
You are absolutely right, Philly.Tru, every form of energy development has a downside, but fossil fuels are particularly bad. So why don’t we ever talk about conservation? We are a nation of Energy Fat Asses!”