Senate Democrats call for greater accountability from natural gas industry
Democratic state senators are pushing proposals to increase liability in the natural gas industry. The bills come nearly a year after a statewide investigative grand jury found state regulators failed to protect the public from health effects hydraulic fracturing.
A bill would increase the distance between gas wells and homes from 500 to 2,500 feet; for schools and hospitals, the distance would increase to 5,000 feet.
Law to push drilling further from homes, study finds little impact
Other bills would require disclosure of all chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, improve air and water monitoring near gas sites, require labeling of trucks carrying fracking waste and allow the attorney general to prosecute companies without referral.
“There are people in this Commonwealth who, for over ten years, have not had clean drinking water. It’s criminal, ”Senator Katie Muth (D-Montgomery), one of the sponsors, said at a press conference on the bills on Tuesday.
She added that if the proposed measures had been put in place prior to the issuance of the shale drilling permits, “we might be in a better position right now.”
Republicans who control the legislature are unlikely to consider the eight pieces of legislation, Senate Bills 650-657.
Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), who chairs the Senate Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy, said Pennsylvania’s standards are “among the most protective in the country” and that the legislation is an attempt to drive out the state industry.
Report of the Grand Jury of the Pa. On fracking: the DEP failed to protect public health
Marcellus Shale Coalition chairman David Callahan said the proposals undermined the economic and community benefits of shale gas development.
“The unconventional gas industry has long supported efforts to ensure that the DEP has the resources it needs to do its job effectively, transparently disclosing the use of chemicals before it becomes law,” adhere to more stringent recoil requirements and promote innovative water recycling practices, ”Callahan said in a statement.
The state’s grand jury report last summer detailed the industry’s many harms against people who live near fracking activity, including contaminated water and noxious fumes from waste from drilling. He said the Ministry of Environmental Protection was not prepared to keep the industry under control.
The DEP called it inaccurate and said new regulations have made drilling safer.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the state’s standards were not good enough.
“There is a gap between what our constitution guarantees – that clean air and clean water – and the laws we have on the books to enforce that guarantee,” Shapiro said.
Some environmental groups have praised the legislation as an essential first step in reducing damage from fracking.
“Urgent action is needed to ensure that Pennsylvanians have air to breathe and water to drink without toxic pollution from fracking,” said Zachary Barber, Clean Air Advocate for PennEnvironment.
Others questioned the possibility of improving the industry. The Better Path Coalition said it “appreciates the efforts to address the important issues raised by the Grand Jury, but warns that it is not correct to suggest … that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely.”
Republican lawmakers and the attack on the U.S. Capitol
As part of WITF’s commitment to stand up for the facts, and because the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to overthrow representative democracy in America, we mark elected officials’ ties to the insurgency. Learn more about this commitment.
State Senator Gene Yaw backed Donald Trump’s 2020 electoral fraud lie by signing a letter urging members of Congress to delay certification of Pennsylvania electoral votes in favor of Joe Biden. The electoral fraud lie led to the attack on the Capitol.
This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration between The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the Commonwealth’s energy economy.