In a move supported by the gas and oil industry, the Pennsylvania state Senate and House today voted, by a relatively slim margin, in favor of Marcellus Shale legislation that environmental groups, local officials, public health experts and tens of thousands of residents have opposed for months.
“Today the leadership in Harrisburg cast a historic vote against our environment and public health,” said Erika Staaf of PennEnvironment. “This Marcellus Shale legislation will put more Pennsylvanians, their children and our most vulnerable populations at greater risk to the hazards of Marcellus Shale gas drilling.”
“If legislators were looking to pass a proposal that will allow more gas drilling near people’s homes, and the parks, playgrounds and schools where our children play and spend their days, then ‘Mission Accomplished,’” Staaf added.
The bill, a conference committee-revised version of House Bill 1950, has been widely criticized for provisions that strip local control; set one of the lowest impact fee rates in the nation; and underfunds environmental programs facing massive shortfalls.
“Some legislators will try and claim that they improved this bill, but this is just lipstick on a pig,” added Staaf.
PennEnvironment and the other large environmental groups in the state raised the red flag about a number of provisions in the bill, including:
- Municipal control over gas drilling: HB1950 strips power from local communities to protect themselves from dangerous gas drilling. HB1950 will require local governments to allow gas operations in all zones, including residential and agricultural areas with few restrictions.
- Impact fee: HB1950 lets polluters off the hook from paying their fair share – the bill creates the fifth lowest extraction fees in the nation and includes multiple loopholes to reduce the fee rate and potentially leave millions of dollars on the table if Pennsylvania counties opt out of implementing the fee.
“Sadly, this is just one more case of powerful interest dominating the political process. We applaud those who stood up in opposition to this flawed bill," stated Staaf.