The Fracking News – A Big Step Backwards

The Fracking News
The big news today is that the PA Senate has passed HB1950, which includes the lowest severance tax from any shale producing state (although they’re still calling it an impact fee), and significant restrictions on municipal zoning. There was some debate in the environmental community as to whether we should pass this bill because “something’s better than nothing”, or scrap it and start over.  PA Conservation Advocate has the best analysis I’ve seen of this bill.
CHC and it’s partners remained opposed to the bill. Jan Jarrett of PennFuture listed the 7 deadly sins of HB1950.  Jeff Schmitt, director of the Sierra Club’s PA chapter had this to say in a press release:
“Under the guise of passing a minimal natural gas impact fee, the PA Senate has given the gas drillers their ‘quid pro quo’ demand to eliminate local governments’ current authority to protect their citizens.  Now the poorly-regulated gas industry will be able to drill in residential neighborhoods, bringing thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals, thousands of tractor trailers, round the clock noisy, polluting drilling, all as little as a football field away from homes, day care centers, and playgrounds.”
The bottom line is that our short-sided legislature has set up PA for another round of ecological disasters as Marcellus development runs through our state. This bill was largely directed by a governor who’s first concern is the industry. However,our own legislators, like Rep. Dave Reed, should also be held accountable for failing to stand up against the executive branch’s overreach, and failing to represent his constituents in Harrisburg. We have the best democracy money can buy.

Also close to home, Indiana County is the new home to a frackwater treatment facility soon to be open in Rayne township. The system will be a closed loop system, where trucks will arrive with brine, it’ll be treated at the facility, and the trucks will then leave the facility with treated water to be recycled for more fracking.  I have a lot of questions about this facility.  Does anyone know more about this?  In addition, Hart Resources Technologies of Creekside is applying to get back into the toxic frack water treatment business, also with a closed loop system.

President Obama upset some in the environmental community during this year’s state of the union address when he spoke highly of going after shale gas. Not surprisingly, some in the industry were literally gleeful.  What I found encouraging was what WASN’T mentioned at all – Coal.
Cheap natural gas has been the talk of the energy markets these days, with the price of gas falling to near record lows. Consul, Cheasapeak, and several other major players have recently announced scaling back their plans of drilling the Marcellus Shale, and focusing on natural gas by-products which are more valuable.
Speaking of a diverse energy portfolio, Sierra Club president, Michael Brune has a great essay on why neither solar, wind, gas, or even geothermal should be the “most important” resource.
From Scientific American comes this story about Cornell researchers Howarth and Ingraffea who have updated their findings on the larger than expected greenhouse gas emmissions from natural gas drilling. These emissions severely lower natural gas’s advantage over coal in terms of greenhouse gases.  Howarth and Ingraffea are the researchers that the industry loves to hate. However, recent air quality tests in Denver confirm that the industry is downplaying the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
And lastly a correction: Previously on the Fracking News we reported that many of you have new representation in the PA legislature. Turns out we jumped the gun, the redistricting proposal has been rejected by the PA Supreme Court.  Last year’s legislative districts will remain for this year’s elections. Apologies for any confusion.

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