The sufficiency of local emergency response plans in gas drilling areas and the capacity of state officials to act quickly when problems hit will be the subjects of a public hearing held by the state Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
Senator Lisa Baker, committee chair, said community groups and environmental activists are questioning whether plans to deal with well blowouts, leaks, and spills are in place and detailed enough to meet the challenges posed by the increased drilling activity in the Marcellus Shale.
“These concerns warrant our attention. As I have said many times, proper precautions are better than the best emergency response. Community safety, public health, and water quality are put at risk if there are any holes in emergency planning. With government budgets at every level under severe strain, it is a legitimate worry that preparation and training have not kept pace with the need,” Baker stated.
“In the wake of the recent gas well blowout in Clearfield County, there are local rumblings that PEMA was either not ready or not properly engaged. There is a responsibility to air the situation and find the facts,” she said.
“The heavy truck traffic resulting from equipment and fracking material being shipped in raises the possibility of collisions, turnovers, and spills. We are dealing mostly with rural areas and small communities. What is the state of readiness? Is there the necessary coordination and communication between levels of government, before we are tested by crisis? Are the resources immediately available when the worst happens?” Baker pointed out.
The Senate hearing is scheduled for June 29th, at 10:00 a.m., in Conference Room 8 E-B, East Wing.