Shale Gas & Fracking in Pennsylvania
Recovering natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is the greatest threat to Pennsylvania’s land, water and air since the widespread lumbering of forests in the 1800’s. By 1900, PA forests had been reduced to only 30% of the almost 30 million acres that covered the state in colonial times. Through the efforts of early foresters and citizen action, trees now cover 60% of the land in the state.
The shale gas formation lies underneath about 2/3 of Pennsylvania, with the most active fracking occurring in Western Pennsylvania and the Northern Tier. Numerous pipelines are being built to transport gas from Pennsylvania and other states to larger markets, to power plants and even for export as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to other countries.
For the people who live in the midst of the Marcellus Shale and along the pipelines, it’s been a difficult ten years. Yes, people and communities benefitted from the gas company’s payments, but there are many concerns about living and working near the drilling operations and compressors. There are risks to groundwater, to air quality and to health. Citizens and communities have little recourse when their land is requisitioned for pipelines or other infrastructure.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is responsible for monitoring and fining companies that do not follow proper practices, but they are short-staffed. PA legislators are trying to rollback many of the requirements that were agreed to when fracking was started. And they have resisted enacting a “natural gas severance tax” as all other states with natural gas sites have adopted.
Natural gas has been touted as more benign to burn than coal in power plants, but it is composed primarily of methane which affects the climate much longer than carbon dioxide. For more details on how fracking works, check the Swarthmore College Environmental Studies Capstone project. Also see Health Risk of Fossil Fuels. (link to that issue) and Letters to SEDA-COG below.
Letters to the SEDA-COG
SEDA-COG has begun a Regional Gas Utilization Initiative (RGUI), to promote use of shale gas in the region. The Rivertown Coalition does not see that as benefiting our area and sent a series of letters to the SEDA-COG Board and Senior Staff with information for them to consider before moving forward with the project. Unfortunately, they have gone ahead with this effort.
We recommend they change the project to a Clean Energy Regional Energy Project that protects the health and well- being of everyone in the area and our earth as well as economic opportunities in rural areas. We encourage SEDA-COG to do more to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy and protecting our resources.
The information in these letters is of general value for any project that considers using fossil fuels. For more on the health risks of shale gas, see above.
#1 Physicians for Social Responsibility Compendium (to Board of Directors)
#1 Physicians for Social Responsibility Compendium (to Staff)
#5 Regional Energy Utilization Initiative
#6 Climate Change
#7 Methane and Radon
#8 Summary of issues and Rivertown Board Comments