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Pennsylvania Sells Out To Gas Frackers


[Update 2/24/12: Delaware Riverkeeper calls out Senator Mcllhinney for misleading his constituent about the fracking law. Read the kick ass letter here!end update]

On Thursday Feb. 16, 2012, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and PA Sierra Club  held a series of protests outside legislative offices across Pennsylvania to hold  legislators accountable for their vote in favor of a new gas drilling law known as the bill HB 1950.

The political deal on the 174 page bill was negotiated behind closed doors by Republican leadership and Governor Corbett and rushed through the legislature in just 48 hours, making it virtually impossible for citizens and local officials to understand what is in the law or participate in the legislative process (here is the Conference Committee report).

The focus of the criticism was on provisions of the new State law that [allegedly – confirmed by Conference Report – see Section 3304 below] over-ride and strip towns of land use zoning powers to regulate fracking and related gas operations (well drilling, pads, access roads, pipelines, pump stations, wastewater processing and disposal, et al).

I went over to nearby lovely Doylestown, to take part in the protest at Senator Mcllhinney’s office [R-Bucks]

Despite a cold rain, about 50 protesters turned out. After gathering downtown, they marched on Mcllhenney’s Office. While the protesters agreed among themselves not to meet with the Senator, I took the opportunity to sit in on a meeting that 2 of the Senator’s constituents at the protest asked for.

The Senator denied any local preemption or restrictions on zoning. He said he had never heard that fracking wastewater contained radioactive compounds. He was unaware of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from fracking. He claimed that all fracking wastewater would be recycled on site and create no environmental harms or risks. He said that use of water was a private property right in Pennsylvania that could not be restricted, equating fracking with agricultural water use. He acknowledged that the law grandfathered existing fracking wells and operations. He claimed that towns could still prohibit all aspects of fracking, but if they did so they would not be eligible for local impact fees. He denied that the impacts of fracking were regional and towns adjacent to fracking wells and infrastructure would be impacted.

[Update: I just read the conference report, I can’t write about the whole thing but it is nothing like the law the Senator described.

This provision alone is a killer – this means none of the new location restriction regulatory standards in Section 3215 apply to drilling on all lands with gas leases. Those wells can’t be stopped or even limited, e.g. “alter or abridged”:

Nothing shall alter and abridge the terms of any contract, mortgage or other agreement entered into prior to the effective date of this section.

And this provision in 3222.1 would gut the chemical disclosure requirements:

  • A vendor, service provider or operator shall not be required to disclose trade secrets or confidential proprietary information.

Section 3304 contains the local preemption, mandatory promotion of gas and numerous other state mandates of what local zoning ordinances must include to promote gas ::

  • Preempts local ordinances adopted pursuant to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code from regulating matters regulated in Chapter 32 or any other technical aspects of oil and gas operations.
  • All local ordinances regulating oil and gas operations must allow for the reasonable development of oil and gas resources.

I found the Senator’s remarks in favor of the legislation and knowledge of the practice and environmental and land use implications of fracking to be incomplete, misleading, or flat out false.

Here are some photos:







Tracy Carlucchio, Delaware Riverkeeper

Tracy Carlucchio, Delaware Riverkeeper


Senator McIlhinney meets with constituent to explain vote - the Senator was nervous

Senator Mcllhinney meets with constituent to explain vote - the Senator was nervous

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