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Marcellus Shale Drilling Could Be Costly To Residents

April 15, 2011

Oil & Gas companies drilling and fracking in the Marcellus Shale are exempt from some important Federal environmental laws including the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Superfund Law.  These, and State regulations that are honor-system based or expedited, allow companies to externalize costs associated with their activities.  Any pollution caused in the industrialization using the high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing process falls to the citizens and the local communities to deal with.  This will not be inexpensive for the protection and restoration of the environment, financial budgets or personal health and well-being.

“The industry is ‘exempted explicitly’ from being required to have an environmental impact statement of the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of drilling under the National Environmental Policy Act, Harry Campbell, a senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said.”

“Governor Tom Corbett “has said he’s open to the idea of an impact fee on drillers, that fee would go to the communities in which the drilling occurs. It would not hold the industry accountable for impacts farther downriver.”

“Pennsylvania contributes the most water — and the most pollution — to the bay, and it’s under orders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the volume of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus by 20 percent or more in the next 15 years.”

“Communities and farmers are under mandates to reduce pollutants going into the Chesapeake Bay. The byproducts of drilling also are going into the bay but are largely unaccounted for.”

“The natural gas companies aren’t going to be held responsible for that. Farmers and communities will be, and they will have to spend more money to get rid of stuff they’re not producing.”

“Campbell notes that 70 percent to 80 percent of Pennsylvanians get their drinking water from streams and rivers. ‘The way we restore the bay is to restore our rivers and streams,’ he said. ‘Every dollar spent on improving water quality saves $27 in treatment costs to drinking water. It makes sense: the cleaner the water coming into the plant, the less expensive to treat it’.”

In addition to wastewater from the drilling and fracking process, “there’s still land disturbance: 5-acre well pads, massive water ponds, access roads, pipelines and compressor stations.  How that activity impacts streams is largely undocumented and unknown, Campbell said.”

“There’s a ‘black hole’ of information when it comes to how the Marcellus industry impacts the environment.”

“In other words, it’s not your fault. But it might be your responsibility. ‘They’re going to get off relatively scot-free while the rest of Pennsylvania is going to have to shoulder that burden,’ Campbell said.”

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