There may not be another district as deeply divided between pro-drilling and anti-drilling individuals and groups as is mine. To add complexity and contentiousness, the district is also split between the Delaware River Basin and the Susquehanna River Basin, with the two commissions having different powers and different approaches to the issue. It is the most publicly discussed, researched, and debated issue I have encountered. For many, the emotional gap between economic development and environmental protection is unbridgeable. So this is not an issue where consensus is likely or compromise is well-received.
It would be easy enough to pick apart this bill, finding compromises that are not satisfactory, protections that could be improved, and requirements that go too far. But if this package is defeated, after all the time and negotiation that went into it, how and when does the next package come along?
On the plus side, this bill includes the ability to realize significant revenue from the increasing drilling activity, a balanced method for distributing the dollars for important purposes such as community and environmental protection, and regulations and safeguards that will cut the risks of accidents and diminish the damage when things go wrong.
There are a series of items I advocated – establishing deeper setbacks from wells and water sources, expanding groundwater monitoring, requiring notification to the operators of public drinking water systems, giving access to locational information needed by emergency responders, putting gathering lines under Pennsylvania’s One Call system, directing dollars toward local impacts such as housing credits, and raising the standards for operators of wastewater treatment facilities – included in here.
This may not be the ideal fee structure, revenue yield, or funding distribution. But it seems a fair beginning. If experience shows insufficiencies or unintended consequences, those can always be addressed. The only thing we know for certain now is that we cannot get the revenue our communities need until a plan is passed and signed into law.
I could not vote for a package that preempted municipal zoning. While I would prefer a bill that left local zoning powers untouched, using a variation of the tried-and-tested ACRE approach is not unreasonable.
In the end, the drilling is here, and it is going to expand. We have all had many months to say what we are against. Now it is time to decide what we are for – to make decisions on the rules, set the standards, and determine how to fund all the inspection, oversight, and protection necessary. In many respects, this bill improves the existing situation for Pennsylvania and for our residents, and on that basis I am voting to support it.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson