March 20, 2010
Environmentalists say the state must take preventive measures to avoid damage from natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
Otherwise, Pennsylvania will again see the same damage to streams and native fish that was caused by coal mining in the past, members of the Laurel Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited said in a position paper.
But since entering the state in 2008 to hunt for the deep, gas-rich Marcellus Shale, industry officials have complained that Pennsylvania’s permitting process is time-consuming and environmental regulations are often too cumbersome.
“The industry is certainly being adequately regulated,” said Matt Benson, spokesman for the [pro-drilling] Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association.
“The Department of Environmental Protection and (state) Fish Commission are adequately inspecting drilling operations now, and we do not believe that more restrictions are needed.
But the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, a 13,000-member organization with 53 chapters, including the Laurel Mountain chapter, says that DEP is overburdened and the number of gas-drilling applications is continuing to increase.
The DEP has not taken a position on Trout Unlimited’s concerns or on drillers’ fears of overregulation.
Trout Unlimited, through a position paper on the effects of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, is calling for greater protection of state forestlands and for a mandatory “severance fee” that gas drillers would pay to defray the costs of any environmental damage.
“The Marcellus Shale gas rush appears similar to the coal boom at the turn of the 20th century,” the group’s president, Randy Buchanan, said in a statement describing Trout Unlimited’s concerns. “We are still paying the economic and environmental price for the impact on our land and water resources (from coal mining).”
Trout Unlimited board member Len Lichvar said in the statement: “The gas industry’s well-funded lobby groups continue to work to stall the legislative process required to implement a severance fee.
“However, a severance fee, despite industry claims to the contrary, will not forestall the extraction of Marcellus Shale in the state. What it will do is to empower the state to minimize the resource degradation that is sure to come from the process of water use and land intrusion.”
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