DEP head wants tougher laws on shale gas drilling
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Pennsylvania needs tougher regulations for Marcellus shale gas drilling, aggressive, independent enforcement and a severance tax on the gas extracted, according to state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger.
And yesterday would not be soon enough to get all of that done and "done right" to protect the state's water resources, said Mr. Hanger in a forceful keynote speech opening the Marcellus Shale Policy Conference at Duquesne University today.
Citing environmental damage done by Pennsylvania's early history of unregulated coal mining, the oil well disaster and widening slick in the Gulf of Mexico and the 29 dead miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, Mr. Hanger challenged state legislators, regulators and the natural gas industry not to make those kinds of mistakes again.
"Let me be clear: Self regulation doesn't work. That's not contestable," Mr. Hanger said to the audience of about 250, including a significant number of gas industry representatives. "We've made mistakes before. We have to get this right or the costs will overwhelm the benefits."
Mr. Hanger said Pennsylvania needs stronger regulations to protect its rivers and creeks from well waste water pollution, tougher and more comprehensive well construction standards, rules limiting toxic air pollution from wells and compressor pumping stations and bigger bonds to cover capping of wells when they stop producing.
"The bonding regulations are pitiful -- $2,500 a well or $25,000 for all the wells a company drills in the state," Mr. Hanger said, provoking a couple of chuckles from the audience. "Well the joke will be on us when the first company leaves Pennsylvania. Right now clearly the rational economic decision would be forfeit the bond and walk away."
The two-day conference is sponsored by Duquesne University and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, which intends to release a blueprint for effective regulation of the drilling industry later this year. According to a news release, PEC will release a policy report and recommendations based on information developed at the conference, which concludes Tuesday.
First Published May 3, 2010 4:23 pm