The purpose of the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission September 6th hearing at the Free Library of Philadelphia was to “delve deeper into a variety of shale gas issues, including water and air quality, social impacts of gas drilling, the drilling tax, and impacts outside Marcellus communities.” A host of invited presenters gave detailed testimony in their area of expertise, then the floor was open to public comment. This was, by far, the more colorful aspect of the evening, but first a brief summary of what a few of the experts had to say:
“I completely agree with the previous speaker’s suggestion for a moratorium on all drilling… It’s not until after they stop production that chemicals are free to flow upwards, decades even. Or it could be five minutes. All wells vary… The best cement sealant technology available today will last up to 100 years, compare that to the 1,000, 000 years left in our aquifer’s lifespan… We’ve got to protect its future.” ~Paul Rubin, Hydrogeologist, Consultant, Hydro Quest
“We have a lot of work to do… There’s no good reason why this state shouldn’t have a drilling tax… there’s a desperate need… In 2012, Pennsylvania would see $400 million in revenues – 5.9%, proposed in House Bill 33… The gas tax is not an environmental issue, but it would be used to fund programs like Growing Greener, and it would help us avoid pressure to drill in state forest land… Of the 2.5 million acres, about 700,000 is already leased… The issue’s been quiet, but HB150 proposes a 3-year moratorium in forests… Some good regulatory legislature has been introduced by Representatives Mundy and Hanna…
“DEP funding has been eviscerated… It’s an absolute disgrace… This year they’re down from $200 million to $135 million…In the past five years, cuts have been 10% overall… You can’t protect the environment unless you have these people here… Also, air issues have not been addressed. Compressors, [etc.], they are all engines that produce pollutants…
“Keep the profile of the issue high… Hold your legislators accountable… If they don’t listen to their constituents, they’ll be out of a job…” ~Rep. Greg Vitali, (D-166th, Delaware County)
“There’s a need for a severance tax… The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission’s extraordinarily narrow impact fee legislation – we DO NOT support it.” ~Anne Crowley, Southeastern Pennsylvania Outreach Coordinator, PennFuture
Then the people had the floor for what was an admittedly one-sided, pro-moratorium consensus. And while Co-Chair Dan Surra requested that the 100 or so attendees hold their applause at the conclusion of the four minutes allotted per speaker, the spontaneous bursts of approval persisted until the end. Topics of public concern ranged widely, from lack of Emergency Response readiness to Tom Corbett’s abysmal canoe-paddling technique, perhaps reflective of the multifarious problems facing the severely opposed gas industry in our state. Some highlights:
“This is a disaster for the economy of Pennsylvania… We believe in The Precautionary Principle… Forestry, Agriculture, Tourism and Travel, the Sustainable Lumber industry alone earns billions… You’ve got organic farmland out of service, unable to be reclaimed… There are only short term benefits, short term jobs…. Has anybody done a real cost benefit analysis of this?… We need a moratorium.” ~ Jerry Silberman, PASNAP, a 5,000 member Pennsylvania nurses union
“I am a grandmother… Study needs to be done… I believe children deserve a better legacy.” ~Eliza Tatum, Philadelphia, PA
“We need to know what’s in these fluids… EMS, firemen, they are exposed to these chemicals… Every well is different, and we’re ‘making it up as we go along’… These three [cement] casings will haunt the gas companies…” ~Tom Lears, Group of Concerned Citizens
“Ask any organic chemist… You can’t filter the waste. You can’t distill it. Drill cuttings are loaded with heavy metals, you can’t filter it… Once you put the chemicals in, you can’t take them out… They’re spreading it on the roads to melt ice, for dust control… It’s a mistake…. You can’t recycle it… If these chemicals are so safe, then why does OSHA exempt them?… It’s too expensive. Too dangerous. Unnecessary…. We can get all the power we need from water, sunlight and wind. We need Amory Lovins’ Soft Energy Path…” ~Paul Groeder, Bucks County Resident
“I’ve been to Bradford County. The water wells there are contaminated. The gas companies are paying to replace their water. They know they are destroying it…. Why are they allowed to continue drilling?” ~Eloquent Pennsylvania Photographer
“Tom Corbett shoulda held out!” ~Tom Frost, Owner Frost Farm, Susquehanna County
“Even a first grader knows this is bad.” ~Walter Tsou, MD, Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility
Intended to counterbalance the gas industry’s amply funded interests, The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission is comprised of representatives from cross-section of Pennsylvania’s environmental action groups. It is funded in part by a grant from the ColCom Foundation, and chaired by former state representatives Carole Rubley and Dan Surra. The commission is sponsored by Clean Water Action, CLEAR Coalition, Housing Alliance of PA, Keystone Progress, Penn Environment, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, and the Pennsylvania Sierra Club.
The Commission will hold three more hearings in Pennsylvania in September. Citizens can sign up to testify at these hearings at the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission’s website, or by calling Stephanie Frank at 717-255-7181.