Corbett’s Marcellus Commission Votes for Impact Fees, Forced Pooling

More Study, But Mostly Cement

Governor Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission voted today to include 96 measures in their final report today. Populated heavily by drilling advocates with a token sprinkling of environmentalists, the group will file its final report on July 22, at which time it will be made public. Not surprisingly, their recommendations are more about making sure gas happens than making sure it happens right.

When environmental group members expressed their hesitancy to vote on the controversial recommendation of forced pooling, citing lack of discussion, Lt Gov and Commission Chair Jim Cawley said he was “befuddled” and that their concern should have been raised earlier. [SOURCE: Article by Laura Olsen, Pittsburgh Post Gazette]

You can be sure today’s oddly conducted, semi-secretive, closed-circuit public meeting won’t appear on the DEP’s website – or YouTube – any time soon. Those recommendations which were not voted into the final report, however, may be released sometime after July 22. One fact was firmly established: The majority of the committee has decided fracking is safe, and we should be moving full steam ahead.

“If they think this discussion serves as adequate public input . . . [then] that’s unfortunate,” said Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of the environmental advocacy group PennFuture, as the commission paused for lunch. [SOURCE: Laura Olsen, Post-Gazette]

Yet, as Donald Gilliland reports in The Patriot News, Jarett also tweeted: “Enviros just being rolled.”

Of course, somewhere among those 96 new regs, there will be a call for better cement casing. And that recommendation will literally fall short by not lining the entire drill shaft…  Well, at least now we have something concrete to debate about, openly and publicly.  Thanks for that, Gov’na!

The highlights (or low-lights, depending on how you look at them):

Local Impact Fees: Unanimously approved, with environmental members insisting that the fees may be used for restoration of public lands and resources, making it one of the few potential victories of the day.

Forced Pooling: How is this even American? It will certainly help drillers economize, and there are those who argue this could minimize fracking’s huge environmental footprint, but how is it cool in this country for someone to push you off a bridge just because everyone else is jumping?

Bigger Bufffers: Berm, baby, berm! Just hope there isn’t one of those ten year storms that we get every five years.

Bigger Fines: Percentage-wise, the new numbers are impressive. But the DEP’s new rates for infractions are not nearly as impressive as the figures drillers are using on Wall Street. G’bye fly, hello bumble bee.

Local Zoning Boards Retain Authority: Up to a point, Fellas.

New Pipelines and Rail: So we don’t have to rent usage of intrastate lines, and we can be players in the interstate export game.

Closed Loop Systems: For all frack fluids and flowback wastewater? Sounds so techno-tidy, tell me more!

Support for Emergency Responders: Good, sadly we’re going to need them.

Land Conservation AND More Drilling in State Forests: This one’s a doosie. The idea is to drill in state forest lands so that we can use the proceeds to re-fund the DEP, so it can do a better job regulating the drillers, who are drilling in state forest lands… You get the idea. This is the same DEP that was treated to $160 million in cuts in the budget Corbett signed a few weeks ago.

More Study of the Health Impacts Near Drilling Sites: This is the only DEP recommendation I kinda like, but it still smacks of something Frankenstein-freakish, like they’re okay with treating the unwitting citizens of Pennsylvania like guinea pigs.

Read the Associated Press Story

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