Pennsylvania’s Natural Gas Regulators Starting to Smell the Coffee?

“Quite frankly, the citizens of this state are being played for chumps."

So said John Quigley, Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources for Pennsylvania at a Marcellus Shale Policy Conference sponsored over the past two days by Duquesne University and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

Said John Hanger, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection: “Let me be clear: Self regulation doesn't work. That's not contestable. We've made mistakes before. We have to get this right or the costs will overwhelm the benefits.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer described the officials’ comments as “part of a coordinated effort by Gov. Rendell's administration to build public support for the legislature to impose greater oversight on the [gas] industry.”

Sounds like the “what didn’t go wrong?” experience in Dimock and other horror stories from Pennsylvania – where drilling in the Marcellus Shale has been proceeding apace – are starting to sink in with the state’s regulators.

Regulators in other gas drilling states should sit up sharply and take notice – particularly in New York, where there is still an opportunity to figure out whether it is possible, and if so how, to rigorously regulate gas production to properly protect human health and the environment.

As the horrifying experience in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrates, we cannot be too careful when it comes to domestic fossil fuel development.  The costs when things go awry can be both devastating and lasting.