During a recent low-energy session of channel surfing, my mood was lifted by the broadcast of the original Wizard of Oz. As the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion sang of the need for a brain, a heart, and courage, the tale seemed serendipitous.
As reported earlier in Earthblog, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court exhibited all those qualities in striking down parts of Act 13 and upholding municipal zoning as a way to stem drilling damage, as well as the constitutional right of citizens to a clean environment. So did the Dallas City Council, which the week before enacted a restrictive zoning ordinance that puts health and property before industry convenience. Then the Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General determined that the EPA was justified in its efforts to protect Texas residents from water contamination related to drilling.
On Tuesday, I travelled to Harrisburg, PA to attend a rally co-sponsored by a number of our friends at Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper, Berks Gas Truth, Gas Truth of Central PA, PennEnvironment, and Sierra Club PA. Organizers hosted the rally to bring attention to continued lack of resolution of water contamination cases across the state that may well be linked to gas drilling. Underscoring the need for more information and action is the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) recent statement that it has documented of twenty-five cases of water contamination of private water supplies from natural gas development. But a records request by the Times-Tribune revealed the actual number of cases of contaminated water supplies at 161. And of course, with inadequate oversight and enforcement of the gas industry, it could be higher. Time will tell.
There are many tragic and terrible things happening in America’s gas patches. Often residents say that elected officials—ostensibly charged with protecting the public interest—seem to care more about gas industry campaign contributions than the lives of their constituents. Sadly, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, 101 State Representatives, and 31 State Senators just declared them right.
In March, Governor Corbett established the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission to study the economic, social, and environmental issues related to natural gas development in the state.
Given what s at stake, this is a great idea. But there s a big hitch. Actually, two:
- The Commission is stacked with drilling companies and Corbett s campaign contributors; and
- Corbett has repeatedly stated that jobs are his top priority when it comes to drilling, over all other considerations.
As a Pennsylvania resident, you know that many communities are already feeling the impacts of under-regulated industrial drilling on their water, health, and quality of life. Yet the Governor s commission doesn t include public health experts, impacted residents, or citizen-based environmental organizations.
What to do?