CAMP HILL, Pa. -- The state's top oil-and-gas regulator said there has been too much concern about drilling issues that don't exist while environmental officials have worked to manage the problems that have arisen from hydraulic fracturing.
"I feel like I'm trying to convince the public that Sasquatch doesn't exist," said Scott Perry of the Department of Environmental Protection, during his remarks at a construction industry event here on Friday.
He said the cries that the fracking process will contaminate water supplies has overshadowed the steps taken by DEP to regulate water withdrawals, set guidelines for building holding ponds and cementing well casings, and mandate the quality of wastewater to be discharged.
Mr. Perry, who serves as DEP's deputy secretary for oil and gas management, also contested criticisms that hydraulic fracturing isn't regulated. He said that while federal officials do not oversee it, drillers are liable under the state's Clean Streams Law and the Oil and Gas Act.
"It's important to point this out, because I think if the public loses confidence in the department's ability to manage this industry, it's going to have some consequences and perhaps some unfortunate policy decisions will be made," he said. "It ultimately will result in less opportunities for everyone."
He, and the panel of local government and industry officials who followed him, touted what they described as current successes and long-term effects from shale drilling.
Amy Gilbert, a stakeholder relations adviser for Talisman Energy, said the company currently has enough land under lease that they could continue to drill wells for another 10 years.
She noted the 20,000 direct jobs and thousands of other positions in supportive fields that the Department of Labor and Industry says have been created.
More jobs would follow from expanding the use of natural gas, Mr. Perry said. He noted the interest from Royal Dutch Shell to build an ethane cracker plant to make plastics within the Marcellus region, estimated to have a $7 billion economic impact.
Southwestern Pennsylvania produces gas with excess ethane, which can create transmission issues. "This would take a problem and turn it into a resource base," Mr. Perry said.
But more regulation is on the agenda first, with the Legislature drafting a measure for consideration next month in response to the governor's plan for updated environmental rules, gas use incentives and a county-assessed impact fee on producing wells.
Panelists spoke generally in support of that proposed fee, with Ms. Gilbert of Talisman saying that her company supports the fee as long as the cost does not discourage competition.
David Sanko of the state's township supervisors association said the additional funds would help relieve some tension in those communities as well as help local governments avoid tax hikes.
Laura Olson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-717-787-4254.