Oped: Some regulations burdensome to natural gas industry

David Spigelmyer
Marcellus Shale Coalition

Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny, makes a number of misinformed claims in a recent York Dispatch op-ed (“Gas Drillers Must Work with Pa. Communities,” Oct. 19) about the natural gas industry’s approach to a select number of overreaching, burdensome and costly regulations that have little environment benefit while harming the industry, it’s employees and communities in which they operate by making the Commonwealth a less attractive place to invest.

This April 1, 2016, photo shows a shale gas drilling rig in Washington, Pa.

While we respect and share Fontana’s support for high environmental standards, it’s flatly false to suggest that the recent rules adopted by DEP provide "fair and clear direction” for the natural gas industry.

Despite extensive public comments submitted to DEP, many questions and very legitimate concerns remain regarding the final rules. In fact, many of Fontana’s colleagues — Democrats and Republicans alike — also expressed concern that DEP’s provisions went too far and passed legislation (SB 1229) in July in an effort to prevent undue harm to the industry.  To be clear, we are not challenging the vast majority of new regulatory requirements. Rather, in an effort to prevent harm to the countless hardworking Pennsylvania families who work across our industry, of which many are Fontana’s constituents, we’re challenging just a handful of provisions whereby DEP has overstepped its clearly defined authority.

Pennsylvania’s bipartisan Act 13 law, passed in 2012, put the Commonwealth at the forefront of environmental protection standards nationally. The recent rulemaking is contrary to the spirit and the letter of the law — but make no mistake, those obligations remain and our members are committed to meeting and exceeding the highest of environmental standards. In fact, DEP’s own data supports this, as our industry is achieving a nearly 98 percent compliance rate under a record number of inspections.

Litigation is always a last resort. However, despite our exhaustive and good-faith efforts to find middle ground and bring common sense to the process, the courts are now the best avenue to ensure harm is not inflicted on Pennsylvania workers and job creators through aspects of these regulations. We will continue to partner with policymakers, landowners and local communities to safely develop our domestic energy resources, while expanding economic and environmental opportunities that benefit all Pennsylvanians.

David Spigelmyer, Marcellus Shale Coalition, Pittsburgh, Pa.