Main Line Media News
March 12, 2010
State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166, of Haverford, recently joined legislators and environmentalists asking that Gov. Ed Rendell stop granting permits to drill in state forest land over the Marcellus Shale region, a huge deposit of natural gas lying under much of the state.
“We already have made available 692,000 acres and there could potentially be thousands of wells drilled to extract the gas,” said Vitali in a release. “We cannot lease any further state forest acreage without encroaching on the most sensitive lands, which include old-growth forests, habitat for endangered species and fragile ecosystems.”Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma previously said a requirement of passing the last state budget was generating enough recurring revenue to help balance the budget for two fiscal years. That included $180 million worth of drilling leases in the 2010-11 budget, he said.
Vitali has entered legislation that would place a five-year moratorium on those leases. The State Forest Natural Gas Lease Moratorium Act would also confer sole discretion for additional leases to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources when the moratorium ends, and would require the DCNR to conduct an annual report on the impact gas drilling has on state forests.
State Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161, of Swarthmore, meanwhile, introduced his own legislation this week that would establish a severance tax on natural gas and put the proceeds toward tax exemptions for green businesses.
Lentz’s bill would authorize the state Department of Community and Economic Development to establish 15 Keystone Green Zones in the state, similar to the Keystone Opportunity Zones that offer businesses a bevy of tax breaks for setting up shop.
In this instance, those breaks would go to businesses that manufacture energy-efficient products or products used in the renewable energy industry.
“I am proposing that we give companies a financial incentive to do business in Pennsylvania, which will produce good-paying jobs and brand the state a hot spot for this growing industry,” said Lentz, a Democratic candidate in the 7th Congressional District. “All the while, we’ll be reducing our impact on the environment and surrounding communities, and improving the quality of life for residents across Pennsylvania.”
Environmental attorney Gail Conner, another Democratic contender in the 7th Congressional District, also called for the closure of the so-called “Halliburton loophole” in the Safe Drinking Water Act that bars the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating hydraulic fracturing being used to mine natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region.
“The Safe Drinking Water Act in its current form allows the oil and gas industry to inject ‘undisclosed’ hazardous materials directly into or adjacent to our nation’s water supplies during the process of fracturing rock through drilling to release gas reserves,” said Conner. “These fracturing fluids pose a potential threat to human health and drinking water supplies.”
Like Vitali, Conner is calling for the restoration of jobs cut at the DEP and DCNR last year, as well as a moratorium on drilling leases.
She has also proposed a slew of permit application requirements, including full disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, and specifying locations for the source of water used and disposal of waste water.
Conner also said the public needs to be informed of a spill or other contamination within 24 hours and some financial remedy should be available for residents whose property is damaged by drilling.
“Protecting our environment and natural resources, and providing a voice for the residents in our communities, should not take a back seat to special interests,” said Conner. “The citizens of the commonwealth have a state constitutional right to clean air and water. I hope that our state leaders will uphold those rights intended to protect the citizens and our communities.”
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