|In the near future I plan to introduce legislation that would enact a moratorium on unconventional well natural gas drilling in the Commonwealth. The moratorium would prohibit the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from issuing new unconventional well permits while a seven member commission studies the varied environmental impacts that the natural gas industry has on the Commonwealth. The study commission is directed to issue opinions on many issues including:
The commission will be made up of appointments made by the Governor with Senate approval, and will be required to hold public hearings across the state and to issue its report by January 1, 2018. Representatives from industry, environmental organizations, and consumer groups will all be required participants.
- Proper protection for rivers, streams, and other drinking water sources from drilling including water withdrawals, management of wastewater, storm water run-off, and spills;
- Proper air quality regulations;
- The disclosure and consequences of all chemicals used by the drilling industry, including amounts used at each well site;
- The appropriate permitting processes, drilling and well inspections, staffing levels, and other administrative responsibilities of the DEP;
- How to handle liability and bonding at all well sites in the event of likely drilling disasters that represent an environmental nightmare, especially in remote areas;
- The impact on the state labor market and on how to encourage job creation and procurement for Pennsylvania people and businesses;
- The financial impact to host communities such as inadequate trucking routes and transportation of contaminated water;
- Property rights of parties leasing land, those adjacent to leased land, and those that own surface rights, but not mineral rights; and
- The cumulative impact of existing and likely proposed drilling in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, including an analysis on water quality, air quality, land use, habitat, and human health.
The natural gas drilling industry continues to have significant unstudied impacts on our Commonwealth's public health, public safety, and environment. It is time that we take a step back and analyze the industry costs and benefits to put an appropriate statutory and regulatory framework in place.