The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission has issued its final report following five public hearings across Pennsylvania. The commission has members of several civic and environmental groups, including a statewide officer with the League of Women Voters, Roberta Winters. She said the voters believe the drillers are getting an undeserved free ride.
“We feel that, based on the legacy of the coal industry, voters want the oil and gas industry to pay a fair share. The burden of cost cannot again be placed on the backs of beleaguered taxpayers.”
Winters said the lack of oversight, the tolerance for mistakes and the negligible penalties do not reflect an adequate commitment to the common good. The Pennsylvania Sierra Club’s Conservation Officer, Thomas Au, said the commission has several recommendations.
“Raise the bar to protect the environment. The commonwealth should upgrade its laws and regulations covering gas drilling, provide the funding necessary to ensure vigorous enforcement, and significantly increase penalties on violators.”
Au said specific recommendations include an end to fast-tracking permits, greater setback distances from water supplies and better controls and monitoring of air pollution emissions. Huge natural gas deposits are under the Marcellus Shale, which stretches across Northern and Central Pennsylvania and several other states. The concerns are mostly related to a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is used to break the shale and get to the gas. It involves pumping a mixture of water and chemicals into the ground under high pressure.