There are so many unknowns to Marcellus gas drilling
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission wants to lease its
land (pending board approval) and sell its water to gas companies
drilling in the Marcellus shale.
It sounds alarming, considering a partnership between an agency
charged with managing and protecting aquatic life could be
partnering with an industry that has been accused of contaminating
ground water, streams and lakes.
Thankfully, if the deal does go through, the PFBC is ready to
enact certain safeguards. Topping the list is the fact that the
agency won’t permit any surface drilling on its property. The
leases would simply be to allow drillers to access the gas
underneath agency property while the drilling takes place in other
Smart move. After all, the land that the commission owns is
basically that surrounding its lakes and ponds. Due to its
proximity to water, the property is extremely sensitive and
vulnerable to any disturbance.
The other good move by the commission is any water that it sells
from its lakes will be pumped into trucks far away from the body of
water. A pipeline will carry the water from the lake to a filling
station, if you will. That way, truck traffic won’t be an issue
around lakes and anglers won’t have to compete with 18-wheelers
while trying to launch their boats.
But there is one more facet to the whole proposal that just may
be a strong indicator of just how risky, and under-regulated, gas
drilling is in Pennsylvania.
Consider this comment made by commissioner Robert Bachman in
Pennsylvania Outdoor News: “There’s less impact on our
resources by leasing our properties where we have some control over
what is going on,” Bachman said.
First, Bachman is basically acknowledging that gas drilling does
have an impact on the environment. How much? Bachman doesn’t say,
but it’s for that very reason why New York has a moratorium on gas
drilling: there are too many unknowns.
Second, by stating that by leasing their properties gives the
PFBC more control of what’s going on, is Bachman admitting that
current regulations in place by the state aren’t strong enough? It
sure sounds that way to me, and if that’s what Bachman does mean
then I agree with him.
And I also agree with New York. While the Fish & Boat
Commission is taking some important precautions in its deal with
the gas industry, we simply don’t know enough about the
significance of gas drilling on the environment. And we certainly
don’t have the manpower or regulatory strength to make sure that
impact – whatever it is, is kept to a minimum.