‘Bare minimum’ protections not enough
Recently, “bare minimum” protections to public health and the environment from the impacts of shale gas development in Pennsylvania got another shearing thanks to a lawsuit by Marcellus Shale Coalition, a nonprofit of oil and gas companies purporting to be “good neighbors.”
In 2018, portions of the Chapter 78a regulations for the unconventional industry were struck down that would have protected schools, play grounds, parks, and species of special concern — not very neighborly.
Luckily, this time, the Marcellus Shale Coalition didn’t get everything it wanted.
Even though they will not have to monitor nearby abandoned wells during drilling and fracking operations per the state’s wishes, the industry will need to adhere to more stringent standards for “freshwater” and wastewater containment ponds as well as monthly waste reporting requirements.
But our public agencies had to fight tooth and nail to keep these most basic regulations. How much did defending these protections cost our under-funded public agency?
How many hours and dollars that could have been spent protecting public resources were instead spent defending the agency’s right to do so?
Although organizations like Earthworks support the Chapter 78a provisions, I believe they are far from enough to protect human health and the environment.
Clearly, in Pennsylvania, the oil and gas industry is still king, and the public has to fight for every meager protection it can get.