September 30, 2009
The recent chemical spills at natural gas drilling sites in Susquehanna County and subsequent enforcement taken by the Department of Environmental Protection against Cabot Oil & Gas Co. underscores the need for a smart approach to drilling in Pennsylvania. As drilling activity continues to ramp up, more staff is needed to adequately monitor and enforce environmental laws.
DEP did the right thing in taking strong action, but the damage to local streams and wetlands has already been done. A severance tax on natural gas production would provide the state with additional revenue to conduct necessary monitoring, enforcement, and restoration. Yet politicians negotiating the state budget are scrapping the severance tax in favor of opening up more State Forest Lands to drilling.
This is simply the wrong approach.
As these spills show, environmental harm from the drilling will be felt. It is only fair to ask the industry to pay its fair share to help offset environmental and local community impacts from drilling. The environmental scars left by historic coal mining in Pennsylvania are well documented. This time, we need to be wiser in the development of our energy resources.
We cannot afford to leave our children with another costly legacy of environmental damage. Enacting a severance tax, keeping our State Forest Lands off limits to wholesale drilling, and requiring the revenues generated from natural gas taxes and leasing to be invested in conservation are smart ways to balance the budget and protect our natural heritage.
Pennsylvania Executive Director
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation