Environmental Groups Submit Proposals to Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission

On Wednesday, June 1, 2011 0 comments

A handful of environmental groups are in agreement that they want to see stricter regulations placed on Marcellus Shale Drilling, and they are detailing out a proposal that addresses a variety of issues including a possible tax, planning and legal enforcement components of Marcellus Shale.

According to an article published by the Patriot News and distributed on Penn Live, "The four environmental groups on the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission all agree they want to see stricter regulation of wastewater from drilling, better planning and updates to the Oil and Gas Act aimed at improving safety and collecting data.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy submitted a total of 20 recommendations to the Commission by the Tuesday deadline. All of the groups agreed on 14 of the proposals, three of them agreed on another four and two proposals were sponsored by one group alone.

Three of the four groups support the “timely enactment of a fair and meaningful fee or tax” on shale gas with some of the proceeds allocated to “Growing Greener” programs.

The groups were unanimous in their support of tighter regulation of highly polluted wastewater from drilling. They say the recent DEP request that companies not take wastewater to treatment plants where it is released into rivers “should become a legally enforceable requirement.”

They also call for trucks transporting the waste to keep complete manifests — including the source of the waste, the destination, and a complete list of chemicals and compounds — and for those manifests to be submitted to DEP.

There was also unanimous agreement that drilling sites should be held to the same standards for erosion and sedimentation as construction sites.

Six of the proposals explicitly relate to improved planning, specifically calling for increased coordination to reduce forest fragmentation and impacts to threatened species.

The groups propose changes to the Oil and Gas Act that would drastically alter the permitting process, which currently emphasizes speed of approval as opposed to comprehensive planning.

They propose a two-phase process in which site location permits would require a host of planning elements including notification of local officials and residents, water quality data, plans to minimize forest fragmentation and impacts to threatened species as well as public comment. Phase one permits would be good for three years and transferrable to other companies. Phase two - for authorization to drill - would follow the current process.

The four groups were also united in calling for the state to require more datailed and complete information from drilling companies, including complete list of chemicals used at each site as well as drilling records indicating depth of potable aquifers encountered, radioactive logs and all geologic formations in which methane was encountered.

More complete information could help solve the issue of gas migration, which even industry groups admit has perplexed them.

A drilling log from one Marcellus well in the northern tier showed methane present in every geologic level below about 40 feet.

The environmental groups call for increased set-back requirements and mandated testing of private water wells within 2,500 feet of a well site before drilling begins.

They also call for the creation of “an independent and multi-disciplinary Marcellus Science Advisory Panel” comprised of leading researchers who would be responsible for reviewing and evaluating current research findings and determining their applicability to Pennsylvania.

The independent Science Advisory Panel would recommend changes in policies and best practices based on their evaluation of the research.

The panel would also create a research agenda for Pennsylvania prioritizing research needs and working with state agencies and universities to make sure those needs are met.

Both Gov. Tom Corbett and DEP Secretary Michael Krancer have stressed the need for environmental policy to be based on science. "

To read the original article, click here.


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