Oped: Gas drillers must work with Pa. communities
I was disappointed to hear that the Marcellus Shale Coalition is already scurrying into court in an attempt to overturn parts of Pennsylvania’s new gas drilling regulations.
The industry needs to understand that our people are entitled to safety, security and a clean environment. Our communities deserve a say in where gas drilling should take place, how it can be safely conducted and what precautions should be in place.
Hopefully, we learned a few retrospective things from the state’s coal and steel industries of days gone by. Taxpayers are still footing the bill to clean up hazardous waste sites, and bring life back to our polluted lands and streams. We are not going to stand back again and meekly allow these new gas drilling conglomerates to hobble modern day taxpayers with the same shameful legacy of abandoned strip mines, brownfields and rusting eye sores.
It’s important to emphasize that these new drilling regulations were not some hastily crafted, one-sided, unreasonable attack on the Marcellus Shale industry. The state Department of Environmental Protection spent a great deal of time taking input and testimony from citizens, community leaders, environmental experts, as well as industry advocates. Thousands of people offered input and many hearings were held around the state.
While the new regulations may not be perfect, they are a reasonable and balanced means to assure that our people and environment come first. The regulations also provide fair and clear direction to those who are engaged in the state’s booming Marcellus Shale industry.
The Shale Coalition is doing the public a disservice by attempting to weaken or eliminate provisions that were crafted after years of hearings and study. I’m also disappointed that the industry is commandeering its assault on the new regulations through costly court suits.
There are pending bills in the legislature that can be used to address many of the issues that the industry objects to. Before attacking the state’s new rules in courtrooms, industry proponents should have reached out to legislators and state regulators to try and find common ground or workable resolutions to their issues.
Instead of finding legal loopholes in regulations that require them to spare endangered species, plug abandoned wells, and responsibly deal with spills and site restoration, industry representatives should embrace the opportunity to be good corporate partners and stewards of our lands and waterways.
Gas drillers should not take an adversarial role against our government leaders and environmental advocates.
Pennsylvania welcomes the industry’s growth, its jobs and its contribution to our state’s economy. All we are asking is that drillers be responsible, respectful and accountable to our people.
— Wayne D. Fontana, is a Democratic state senator representing Allegheny County.