The letter opines: “State policymakers need to keep in mind the destructive consequences of placing unreasonable regulations on this industry.” This statement begs the questions “What is reasonable?” and “Destructive consequences for what and whom?” Reasonable for/destructive to the gas industry? Or reasonable for/destructive to public health and safety and the environment?
The letter further states: “When done correctly, natural gas drilling poses no threat to human health or the environment.” Yes, but what about all the times when it is NOT done correctly? Even the most casual research reveals too many of these “incorrect” incidents to be deemed “reasonable” or acceptable. And just because the industry “doesn't accept responsibility” for these incidents does not mean that it is in truth not responsible for them.
The letter speaks of the need for “reasonable regulations,” yet the federal panel investigating shale gas drilling states in its report that current state and federal regulations may well be insufficient for protecting the public and the environment from the hazards of drilling. Meanwhile, the gas industry decries these same current regulations as being “too much red tape.”
And of course the letter mentions the “thousands of jobs” created by the gas industry. While job creation is undeniable, most reports agree that the number of shalefield jobs created has been exaggerated by the industry. One could also ask: “Jobs at what cost?” At the cost of state residents' health, plummeting property values and massive degradation of the environment? There would be an avalanche of job opportunities for women (and men, too) if a certain “industry” were to be legalized in Pennsylvania, but would that make it right? Are we that desperate in these “tough times” that we will do anything for jobs and money?
The economic benefits of shale gas drilling need to be weighed in an unbiased manner against the multitude of very real hazards, risks and liabilities associated with this development, industry denials notwithstanding. Regulations need to be based on a realistic assessment of those hazards, not on the corporate bottom line and the demands of leaseholders. And if said hazards are deemed to be beyond adequate regulation, the industry needs to be shut down until it can be proven safe enough to resume. This industry is not “too big to fail.” Believe it or not, we could survive such a shutdown. In fact, by some estimates, we might survive better with a shutdown than without one.