Six Reasonable Reasons PA Should Enact a 2-Year Moratorium on New Permits for Shale Gas Drilling in 2015

Six Reasonable Reasons PA Should Enact a 2-Year Moratorium on New Permits for Shale Gas Drilling Upon Taking Office in 2015

(Excerpted and revised from my January 20, 2014 post; more details available in that. Upon further reflection, this revision is re-titled and re-orders the priority of good reasons for a 2-year moratorium. It also revises the suggestion that a Democratic governor could do this upon taking office. The fact is that the law allows giving out permits like candy so long as the application is in order, and only the legislature can change that. Senator Ferlo has proposed legislation for a moratorium. Perhaps these six reasons can assist him in talking to his colleagues about enacting a moratorium: )

Reason #1:  There are at least two years of work to be done in overseeing, regulating and cleaning up the current system of 7,500 unconventional wells that are already in some stage of production. In many cases these are performing badly with severe negative impacts on the environment. DEP is overwhelmed and Governor Corbett and the state legislature have given the gas industry too free a hand.  Additionally, it could take two years to deal with a backlog of almost 8,000 permits for wells not yet drilled.  It is impossible to deal with problems of the old while so much new is coming into the system. New permits should be suspended for two years at the least.

Reason #2: Peoples’ good faith and trust in government can be gained back, at least in part, by such a moratorium. The state let the gas industry in too soon and too fast. The new governor must show the courage to enact a reasonable pause in the drilling while the state does the work that should have been done before drilling ever got permitted. To be intellectually honest, that 2-year moratorium should be open to the possibility that this kind of shale gas extraction cannot be made safe enough to continue.

Reason #3: There is a fundamental issue of fairness in how some parts of the state are now protected from unconventional drilling for shale gas while others are exempted. There are good reasons for a study of environmental impacts in the South Newark Basin area or the Delaware River Basin, and those reasons should apply to the rest of the state, otherwise much of the state is relegated to being a huge experimental zone. That is not fair.

Reason #4: A comprehensive public health study must be completed in areas of the state where drilling is most intense. Geisinger Health System along with many partners has begun work on that. It will take 3-5 years to complete Phase 1 of the study. The new governor should support that study with public financing and any useful state data. As the study rolls out, the new governor should initiate a public hearing process so that Pennsylvanians are educated about the health impacts of shale gas development. 

Reason #5: The EPA study of hydraulic fracturing and its potential to cause irreparable harm to groundwater aquifers will be coming out in 2014 or 2015. Why not wait until that study appears and is thoroughly vetted through peer review and a public hearing and comment process?

Reason #6:  Demand for Marcellus Shale gas is down and likely will stay down for 2015-2016 unless there is major new activity in exporting, a development that the new Democratic governor should resist as much as possible under current federal law. This market condition allows room to suspend new permits until more is known about the current-day and long-term impacts of drilling on the environment and public health.

About jstephencleghorn

My name is Dr. J. Stephen Cleghorn. I am now a resident of Baltimore, MD. I continue to own a 50-acre certified organic farm in Jefferson County, PA that I operated with my late wife Lucinda between 2005 and 2011 when she passed away from cancer. The farm is now under lease to organic farmers and protected by "The Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez Conservation Easement” which protects it for organic agriculture and against the threats of industrial development that would violate the Rights of Nature. The blog’s name is taken from the writings of Saint Augustine who believed “Hope” to be the greatest of spiritual gifts. And, says Saint Augustine, Hope has two lovely daughters: Anger and Courage. Anger so that what must not be may not be; courage so that what should be can be. Anger and Courage. Now in late 2016, after the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, these are the spiritual gifts that must come to the fore if we are to have “Hope” for a loving culture and a sustainable world for future generations. When I first created this blog it was focused on the extreme form of fossil fuel extraction known as “fracking” that was threatening much of the state of Pennsylvania and many other parts of the United States. At the root of that struggle was and is a struggle to halt and reverse climate change. Now the struggle has turned to resisting an incoming Trump Administration that is an existential threat to the climate with its plans to ramp up extraction and use of fossil fuels. This blog will be about having the courage to stand up to the massive global corporations that would ruin our planet and its climate, take their profits and leave the mess to future generations of to clean up. We need to rise up, my friends, and be not afraid.
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3 Responses to Six Reasonable Reasons PA Should Enact a 2-Year Moratorium on New Permits for Shale Gas Drilling in 2015

  1. roland Evans says:

    So the last 60+ years of fracking aren’t enough to gather the facts?

    • Roland – Most of those 60 years were conventional drilling using vertical bores to relatively shallow concentrations of gas. Not at all the same as “high volume slickwater fracturing of long laterals.” You might want to catch up by taking a look at a couple of presentations by Dr. Anthony Ingraffea who has worked or taught for decades in this field of fracture mechanics used for oil and gas development. Tell me what you think after you take the 3 hours necessary to listen to expert testimony. Adult learning is difficult. I hope you take the time to look at these and enter a real dialogue.

      Facts on fracking:

      The Science of Shale Gas:

    • Roland – I am serious. If you have better information than Dr. Ingraffea has on this, then you should be able to rebut the “facts” that he presents. if you do not, then I will have to think you are not serious about the very question you posed. – Steve

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