The Fracking News – The Sweetest Sweetheart Deal

The Fracking News

The Indiana County Planning Commission submitted their recommendations to Commissioner Ruddock and his crew on Wednesday.  According to analysis by PennFuture’s legal team, the recommendations include at least nine conditions for drilling pre-empted by current law.

This week, the Senate and the House have passed similar bills dealing with an impact fee, environmental protections, and zoning regulations.  HB1950, and SB1100

  • Despite general agreement that the industry could thrive in Pennsylvania under any of the major severance tax proposals under discussion, the House and Senate have picked the proposals which will generate the least amount of revenue for local municipalities, the state, and environmental programs – The House’s tax is  around 2.2%. This is less than the industry’s suggestion of 2.5%.
  • The restrictive language on model ordinances in HB1950 insists all zones be open to drilling (check page 139 starting with line 27 on Reed’s HB1950). This undercuts CHC’s ordinance, as well as the Draft ordinance that the Indiana County planning commission submitted this week, which prohibits drilling in the buffer zones. We could also see drilling in Indiana Borough.
  • There are many good environmental protections in both bills, but there could be improvements – for example, the important setback limit from water sources should be 3000ft.

Democrats in the House are playing politics, and saying that it’s a shame that all these Republicans had to break their “no-tax pledge” for such a paltry tax. It’s about the worst response to their losing position as I’ve seen.

Some municipalities reportedly are pleased about the zoning restrictions. Indeed, Commissioner Ruddock commented that he was communicating with Rep. Reed until late Tuesday night during the House debate, suggesting that Comm. Ruddock is happy to abdicate responsibility to the state. He actually said as much a few months ago.

Now get this: on the very same day that the PA legislature was being lassoed by the Corbett administration towards a One-Size-Fits-All model ordinance, the Corbett administration was in D.C. at the capital trying to buck any EPA involvement – literally arguing against one-size-fits-all regulations.

The Corbett administration also released a study on the DEP’s record of shale inspections, and found it inconsistent across the state. A national review of shale drilling violations found that puny fines and scant enforcement leave drilling violators with nothing to fear.

Despite all this, I believe that change is possible, and we can still win this thing!! Here’s two examples where people power has changed events:

  1. President Obama has sent the proposed Keystone XL pipeline back to the state department for a thorough review, which many analysts say will kill the project. This is a HUGE DEAL on a climate change nightmare that 6 months ago the industry thought was a done deal. Many CHC folks have been involved in this, including Peter Roquemore who was among the over 1,200 people arrested in protest of the project, and also among the over 10,000 people who rallied at the White House earlier this month.
  2. And just this week, the Delaware River Basin Commission cancelled it’s approval to go ahead with fracking under certain regulations in the Delaware River Watershed. This is another huge victory for folks in our region, as the regulations were seen to be too weak. This reversal comes after an enormous groundswell of opposition, helped in part by the original Fractivist, Josh Fox.

Back to fracking – here’s this week’s accidents:

And here’s this week’s industry lies:

Lastly before the holiday, The New York Times has an excellent piece on the conflict facing communities in Washington county between the prosperity brought by a well on their property, and un-identified health problems. If you click on no other link in this email, click this one.

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