Preserving Forests, Protecting Waterways

Polices to protect Pennsylvania's natural heritage from the threat of natural gas drilling
Released by: PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

When it comes to natural gas drilling, modern Pennsylvania has begun to mirror the coal rush of the 19th century. Pennsylvania sits upon the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserve, which is believed to be one of the largest natural gas reserves in the United States. Nearly 60 percent of this natural gas is found within Pennsylvania’s state borders, deep under ground.

When natural gas companies come into a region of Pennsylvania to drill in the Marcellus Shale for natural gas, local residents are often left to fend for themselves against a powerful and well-funded industry. To make matters worse, the few laws that are on the books are often tilted to benefit the natural gas industry, not the general public.

As natural gas companies have developed new technologies for extracting gas from deep wells, they have begun to apply for record numbers of drilling permits on hundreds of thousands of acres of public and private lands, many of which the state has approved. Already, companies have drilled nearly 600 wells in the state.

Unfortunately, natural gas companies have caused new and widespread environmental problems throughout the Commonwealth as they use a new deep-well drilling process in the Marcellus Shale called hydraulic fracturing. The process consumes incredible volumes of water, often from nearby streams and rivers; releases toxic pollution into local waterways and drinking water supplies; harms local plant and animal species; and carves up our forests and public lands for short term payoff.

In order to ensure that Marcellus Shale drilling takes place in Pennsylvania in a way that protects our environment and public health, PennEnvironment supports:

  • Strengthening Pennsylvania’s clean water laws to ensure that natural gas drilling does not contaminate Pennsylvanians’ drinking water or waterways used for recreation;
  • Declaring our wild places and public lands off-limits to drilling;
  • Improving “Right to Know” laws for natural gas drilling so that local communities and environmental officials have all of the necessary data to properly implement drilling proposals, enforce laws and make decisions;
  • Implementing a public input process for local communities on all decisions related to public and private lands;
  • Improving tools for Pennsylvania’s regulators, allowing them more time and funding to ensure they can protect Pennsylvania from the harmful effects of drilling;
  • Ensuring that drilling companies pay for the pollution and environmental damage they create;
  • Improving and enforcing federal laws and rules that protect Pennsylvania and other states from the effects of hydraulic fracturing.

Only by implementing these core principles will we be able to ensure that Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling takes place in a manner that protects our environment and public health.