Pennsylvania continues to lead the pack with news of inadequate oil and gas regulation

Pennsylvania remains the poster child for things that can go wrong when producing oil or gas. There is so much recent bad news from the state, as I've outlined below. Pennsylvania is a beautiful state with great people, places, and history. They deserve to be protected, instead of becoming a land of poisoned water and ruined landscapes. Here is the latest:

  • There are two new cases of contamination of drinking water wells in northwestern Pennsylvania. Families complained that their water had become cloudy and had strong odors. Testing found elevated levels of methane, iron and manganese in the water. Officials are now investigating the cause of the drinking water contamination.
  • There are reports that up to 100 households in Bradford County have had their drinking water wells contaminated by gas production operations. Families also report property values dropping dramatically. We hope there will be more investigation of these reports.
  • Two houses explosed in Bradford Township (one in December and one in February). According to U.S. Senator Robert Casey: "The belief that the source of the explosions is some type of thermogenic gas migration caused by extensive drilling appears to be widespread," As I blogged about in the past, Bradford Township is also victim to contaminated drinking water caused by poor well cementing and other operational problems; air pollution, severe noise, hazardous roadway conditions, and unsafe waste pits.
  • According to a report in The New York Times, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials pushed Pennsylvania regulators to consider re-evaluating all permits for wastewater treatment plants that are accepting drilling or fracking waste and adding stricter standards for testing of radionuclides and other contaminants. According to the Times, a state official rejected this idea outright because “it’s too resource intensive” and that industry would push back too strongly. If that is the standard for new rules, we would never have any new rules in this country. Regulators need to do what is right, even if industry opposes it. Instead, the state has written to wastewater treatment plants and requested that they “voluntarily” begin testing for radium, uranium and other pollutants.
  • Pennsylvania oil and gas inspectors trying to enforce state rules on drilling in the Marcellus Shale have been prohibited from issuing violations unless they have gotten the approval of a senior state official. My colleague Kate Sinding discusses this terrible new policy in her blog.
  • The Carmichaels Municipal Authority recently issued an advisory for residents to boil their water because it had to lower chlorine treatment in order to reduce the levels of trihalomethanes, which can cause cancer. According to the Authority's President, Dan Bailey, the authority's problem is being caused by high levels of bromide in the Monongahela River, resulting from natural gas wastewater. Mr. Bailey states:"What upsets me is DEP knows what's causing this yet they're letting drillers dump that water into wastewater plants that don't test it before they dump it into the river," Bailey said.

While Mr. Bailey's quote is specific to Carmichaels, the inadequate regulation of the oil and gas industry that he mentions is, unfortunately, not. It is occurring statewide. Pennsylvania deserves better and should be the model for best practices and safe operations, instead of endless problems.

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