In response to citizen and community concerns about the safety of water resources, state Senator Lisa Baker is preparing a series of bills to provide additional protections to drinking water sources.
“As more drilling takes place in our region, it increases the chances of something going wrong. Prevention and protection are preferable to crisis management and emergency response. Individuals and groups are taking a hard look at state laws and regulations, finding restrictions that seem too slight in contrast to the consequences of human error or technological failure, and offering constructive suggestions on steps that should be taken,” Baker said.
“While there are proposed water protection regulations moving through the process, people understand that law has more force. As drilling proceeds on a larger scale, area residents want answers that show responsibility being assured, rather than risks being assumed,” she emphasized.
“The economic benefits of gas extraction will be realized statewide, while the environmental drawbacks will be experienced locally. We have to be properly prepared and protected. Reasonable environmental protections will not discourage the development of this industry; they will help to make sure that unreasonable costs are not imposed on local communities and homeowners,” Baker stated.
In order to protect aquifers and determine any adverse consequences attributable to drilling, one bill would require testing at three times – before drilling, at the completion of drilling, and six months afterwards – at three different depths.
A second bill would rule out drilling at sites too close to drinking water sources such as reservoirs.
A third bill would require DEP to ensure that the operators of wastewater treatment facilities are properly trained and sufficiently monitored to lessen the chances of human error creating a major problem.
Baker said that some of the costs would be borne by the gas companies. Oversight costs could be paid for through a severance tax, which is expected to be debated in the coming weeks. She reiterated her opposition to any severance tax plan that would devote the revenue generated to filling a hole in the state budget, rather than providing for community protection in drilling areas.
“The environmental and economic catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico underscores the crucial nature of taking all reasonable precautions and for being prepared for dealing with extreme situations when things go horribly wrong,” Baker concluded.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson