The Fracking News

Indiana County Commissioners adopted an impact fee for Indiana County last week – the county’s 38 municipalities may share $477,000 in the first year. All Marcellus producing counties, plus 16 w/o Marcellus wells have now enacted a fee. For those who remember the fall, a lot of time was spent by our legislators insisting the fee be optional….why was that again?

Aside from the impact fee, Act 13 has created problems. Doctors continue to raise alarm bells that it puts patients at risk. The bill was also stripped of funding to track and study health effects.  Of course, non-doctors say doctors and patients should be just fine. Out in Bucks County, it was the legislators who ran into problems when trying to explain their votes on Act 13. “Don’t plan on being voted in again, that’s for sure,” shouted one heckler.  Back on this side of the state, shareholders for EQT Productions (remember them?) had problems when they went to protest the driller’s activities in PA. The shareholders were barred from attending their shareholder meeting leading to confrontations with security.

The good news for those who want to retain traditional zoning rights is that a judge agreed with the coalition of municipalities, individuals, and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network who are challenging the constitutionality of Act 13. This week a judge ordered a 120 day halt to the zoning pre-emptions contained in the legislation. Those challenging the case see this decision as the right a good first step in their case.

And in an immediate indication of the power of the industry, on Monday a judge will be ruling whether or not drillers or legislators will be able to intervene in the above court case. Yes, it’s confusing, but this article lays it out pretty well.

What’s not confusing is that some in the industry already think they can do as they please:  Chesapeake Energy (remember them?continues work on a project in Beaver County despite receiving a cease-and-deist order from county officials. Chesapeake is all over the news these days, with their billionaire CEO Aubrey McClendon (remember him?) being suspected of conflict of interest after he borrowed over a billion dollars from his own companies. And in Bryn Mawr residents and activists protested Aqua America over the forced eviction of 32 low-income families to make way for a water withdrawal facility. I thought fracking was going to create opportunity, not evict families.

With aggressive practices like this, is it any wonder why Pennsylvanians worry about the industry actively recruiting military?

Some environmental groups are moving past Act 13, and looking at what should come next. The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has a number of priorities. One idea is to use AMD instead of freshwater for fracking – what do you think?

The Susquehanna has been stressed lately. In addition to low stream flows from below normal rain which resulted in driller’s withdrawal permits suspended, since last fall the fish are beginning to show strange black spots, with no apparent reason. Could be the gas industry? Could be a lot of things – but according to Gov. Corbett’s head of DEP, there’s nothing to see here, move along.

Okay, now for the good news 🙂  The EPA has finally released new regulations on air emissions for the oil and gas industry. They’re not as strong as they were before, and give the industry 2 years to implement policies they could do now, but it’s better than nothing right?

And lastly, want to meet Matt Damon (remember him?) Check out this Pittsburgh Casting Call for a fracking movie!


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