(Harrisburg) – A number of environmental and community organizations gathered outside Governor Corbett’s office in the state capitol today to respond to the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Groups universally criticized the Commission’s final report, issued last Friday, as a product of its industry make-up and decried the secrecy employed to generate the final product.
"The Commission recognized the need for regulatory improvements, but in effect gave barely a nod to the serious and accelerating health and environmental problems in Pennsylvania's gas patch," said Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer with Earthworks. "With strong incentives for the expansion of drilling, limited protections, and a willingness to violate the rights of landowners through forced pooling and municipalities by overriding zoning rights, the recommendations are yet another way to favor industry over citizens."
“While the Commission held their secret deliberations, the state gave out 1,720 permits to drill in the Marcellus Shale. Even though some of the recommendations recognize that residents lack the proper protections from drilling, when, if ever, will the state take action? We need a halt to the mad rush to give out permits when even industry agrees that the rules are currently lacking,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action.
Many of the environmental recommendations in the Commission report have been proposed in legislation for several years with no action taken to date. None of the drilling companies on the Commission have offered to abide by the recommendations in their own report.
“We have had information about the deleterious effects of Marcellus Shale gas drilling on our environment, health, and safety for years,” said Erika Staaf of PennEnvironment. “To delay implementing much-needed policy in order to regurgitate facts we already had at our fingertips is an abomination. It’s critical our state legislators to act swiftly to make meaningful progress to protect our drinking water, clean air, public lands and public health from the dangers of drilling.”
The environmental groups also noted a list of critical issues that the Commission ignored in making their final recommendations including: lack of a moratorium and a requirement to conduct a cumulative impact analysis, no recommendations to address the need to test drinking water supplies, nothing to address the impacts of pipelines being built throughout the state, and a complete lack of attention to the air quality impacts from gas drilling and production.
"The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission has ignored the serious air pollution problems associated with Marcellus-related development. Well pads, compressor stations, and processing facilities are all going in largely without air pollution controls," said Jeff Schmidt, Director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter. "The pollution from these facilities are felt by the public. According the DEP, during the last week we have been experiencing public health-threatening "Code Orange" ozone action days over nearly all of Pennsylvania. The pollution from gas drilling facilities will only make our air quality more dangerous. We must require the best available pollution controls at all of these facilities, in order to protect public health", Schmidt concluded.
The environmental organizations also noted the lack of real public participation in the process of drafting the report. “Gov. Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission operated at a level of secrecy that evoked memories of Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force. We’re very disappointed that there is no opportunity for Pennsylvanians to formally comment on the final report now that it has been made available to the public. They deserve to have a real voice in matters as important as unconventional natural gas drilling,” stated Karen Feridun from Berks Gas Truth.