After a series of public meetings around the state, a citizens group formed by several environmental groups and other organizations has released its report on the Marcellus Shale industry. While there’s a lot of discussion about an impact fee or severance tax, the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission also feels enforcement and regulatory reform are paramount. Dan Surra, who co-chaired the panel, says the overriding feeling the commission received is that people feel their politicians and regulatory agencies that are supposed to be protecting them aren’t.
Surra says in regard to a tax or fee, the commission favors a robust tax similar to West Virginia’s, and giving counties the ability to tax gas and mineral rights. But he says that’s a small part of the report. He says people feel clean air, clean water and their quality of life are at risk and the state needs better enforcement and updated regulations to protect the people of the Commonwealth.
Commission member Roberta Winters of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, says they heard four main areas of concern. First was the contamination of the water, air and land, followed by the undue consumption of water, protection of vital and sensitive natural places and the establishment of meaningful rights for landowners and communities to make sure they have a voice in decision making.
Dan Surra says the report makes a number of regulatory and enforcement recommendations, and it’s a very inclusive document. He says the legislature needs to take a hard look at the recommendations.
The report calls for specifying and protecting areas of the state that are unsuitable for drilling, including extending a moratorium on drilling in state forests and putting stricter protections for air quality and surface and groundwater prior to issuing a new round of permits. It also calls for an office of consumer environmental advocate in the Attorney General’s Office to provide a forum for public complaints to be heard and investigated.