Ringing Out the Old

In a few short weeks, we’ll be ringing out 2014 and ringing in 2015.  In a little over a month, we’ll have a new governor, Governor-Elect Tom Wolf;  new administration with a new philosophy on unconventional shale gas resources.  And, we have a new PA Assembly, with an additional amount of members with perhaps the opposite philosophy.

We’ve been through this before; an administration with not much of a plan except to lease the state forest lands and grab a severance tax – to which a lot of time was spent on arguing the merits of a severance tax.  We ended 2010 with many gaps regarding the lack of basic and reasonable regulations regarding Marcellus Shale.  Just two examples, no regulations enacted for gathering lines in rural Class 1 Area locations, no extension of PA One Call for natural gas gathering lines.  There were many more gaps that existed from air quality, water lines and everything in between.

While more had been done since 2011, (one example, Act 13 of 2012 including the Impact Fee) we are still ending 2014, again, with many of the same gaps still existing.  We have an incoming governor with a different philosophy, but we are not sure of exactly what the plan is other than it involves a tax.  And, we still have these many gaps that need to be filled in order that unconventional shale gas resources exploitable near and next to our homes – in the long term – may be done in a way that is suitably sustainable from the point of public health and safety.

We continue to experience repeats of one segment of the discussion – sometimes where there is no shale gas development  criticizing an effort a group is making to create ‘performance standards’ addressing areas we continue to lack adequate regulations.  This type of criticism makes absolutely no sense to folks that are living with the daily impacts of a nearby well pad or other facility and the concerns they may have.  Criticisms in this case don’t help move the conversation of adequate regulations when we don’t even have the level of these ‘performance standards’ within the grasp of regulations.  Our long awaited regulatory package was stalled for a bifurcation – a provision in the last budget passed by our state legislature, which has seriously disappointed us. Such debates and stalling tactics do nothing to improve situations for those who find themselves living too close to a variety of sites.

Two tunes keep running through my mind; Carly Simon’s “We can never know about the days to come, But we think about them anyway …… Or just chasing after some finer day… Anticipation, Anticipation” and Neil Young’s, “Old ways, it sure is hard to change ’em, Come what may, It’s hard to teach a dinosaur a new trick …….. Old ways, can be your ball and chain.”

Rather than write a Christmas wish list of gaps that need to be filled – looking through our website, blogs and action alerts can provide a pretty good list of what is necessary.  What I will say, is that addressing a severance tax without giving equal consideration to filling these gaps – is not what we have in mind at all.  Such an action will create such a void that the Marcellus Shale Success story with Pennsylvania as a real world leader will continue to be nothing more than an example of where Pennsylvania’s reach exceeds her grasp.

As the year draws to a close, and we all take time to enjoy the holidays, this is our final 2014 blog.

May you enjoy the holidays with all those you hold dear.

Emily Krafjack, President