Five years ago, hardly anyone outside the natural gas industry had heard the words “Marcellus Shale.” Today, the development of this energy resource is Pennsylvania’s #1 economic and environmental issue.
On May 10, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) released a set of proposed changes to the PA Oil and Gas Act intended to improve regulation and oversight of unconventional shale gas development in the Commonwealth.
Several recent incidents involving operations at Marcellus Shale drilling sites have illustrated the importance of making certain that Pennsylvania's management of these activities protects drinking water and environmental quality from potential adverse impacts associated with shale gas production.
We also need to ensure that the natural treasures that make Pennsylvania the special place we know – including our large unfragmented forests, native brook trout streams, and unique wildlife species and habitats – are not sacrificed to gas extraction. The Pennsylvania Chapter of The Nature Conservancy recently released a report documenting the footprint of Marcellus Shale gas extraction activities and projecting out twenty years the likely cumulative impact of this wave of development on our lands and waters. (The report can be found at www.nature.org/paenergy.)
At The Nature Conservancy, we are convinced that this energy resource can be developed in a manner that avoids or significantly reduces negative impacts on important habitat – but only if the industry builds this kind of information into its siting of well pads, roads, and pipelines at the front end, and regulators review siting applications with an eye on the cumulative impacts across larger landscapes and across time.
We applaud PEC and CBF for putting forth a legislative proposal that aims to address both of these concerns – the safety of our drinking water, and the survival of the natural world around us. We look forward to working with industry, policymakers, our colleagues in the conservation community and others to achieve agreement on changes to the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act and additional policy initiatives that will enable us to meet these important challenges.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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