The tsunami is just about upon us. T. W. Phillips Gas and Oil Company, formerly the “local gas company,” has been bought by multinational conglomerate Exxon Mobil, the architect of some of the worst environmental catastrophes on the planet. Exxon didn't spend $1.7 billion just to watch the corn grow in Butler County! A massive increase in the number of county gas wells is no doubt on the near horizon.
Added to that will be massive pipeline construction. In other parts of the state, the PUC has designated Marcellus Shale natural gas pipelines as a “public utility,” even though much of the gas moving through those pipelines will be serving the “public” in China and Japan! So much for our “energy independence!” This designation paves the way for “eminent domain” pipeline placement throughout the state, including Butler County.
A ban is the only way to protect the residents of the county from the negative impacts associated with Marcellus Shale drilling and fracking that have occurred elsewhere. Zoning ordinances, tightly regulated by the state, offer little in the way of protection.
People who have leased their land would no doubt oppose such a measure, claiming their rights as landowners to allow drilling on their property and to glean the profits thereof.
No one can deny that this is their right. However, no one has the right to contaminate their neighbor's soil and water. This is often what happens. In a great many cases, a neighbor who has not leased his land has had his soil and water contaminated from the activity of a nearby well.
Contaminants associated with drilling and fracking show no respect for property lines. This is a public health and safety issue, pre-empting private property rights and monetary gains.
Recently, the governor of Maryland commissioned a study of hydraulic fracturing to make sure that the process is safe for the citizens of Maryland and the environment before it is implemented in his state.
What I wouldn't give for a governor like that!
Instead, our governor has allowed the citizens of Pennsylvania to be the “crash test dummies” by which other, more reasonable states have been urged to caution so as not to repeat our mistakes.
At a recent presentation at the Butler Public Library, Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields stated that safer fracking methods are being developed, but they would be expensive to implement, cutting into industry profits. Let us shed a collective tear for even the thought of diminishing profits for the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry!
And before the residents of Butler County are shedding genuine tears for fracking gone bad in their neighborhoods, let us push our local municipal officials to enact a ban on drilling and fracking as a public health and safety measure, thereby forcing the oil and gas industry to adopt safer fracking technologies.
They can afford it. We can't. And “Marcellus” will still be there, with accompanying royalty checks in hand, once we know we can proceed safely.