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Guarded Praise for New Pennsylvania Fracking Regulations

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PHOTO: Proposed revisions of Pennsylvania natural gas drilling rules are drawing some praise from citizen and environmental activists, including Gretchen Dahlkemper with Moms Clean Air Force. Photo credit: Tammy Bradshaw Photography.
PHOTO: Proposed revisions of Pennsylvania natural gas drilling rules are drawing some praise from citizen and environmental activists, including Gretchen Dahlkemper with Moms Clean Air Force. Photo credit: Tammy Bradshaw Photography.
 By Dan Heyman, Public News Service - PA, Contact
March 19, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Citizen and environmental groups are giving cautious praise to proposed revisions of the regulation of Pennsylvania natural gas drilling, better known as fracking.

New rules coming from Governor Tom Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection would tighten air pollution and water regulations for the gas industry.

John Norbeck, acting president and CEO with PennFuture, says the new regulations are the result of an open process that included 24,000 comments. While some segments of the industry have been critical of the new rules, Norbeck says the revisions are rather modest.

"A number of these regulations are truly based on best management practices that are currently occurring," he says. "Companies are already doing that anyway and it's something that's within the grasp of all the industry."

The revised regulations would force drillers of fracking wells to put their wastewater into storage tanks or larger, carefully-constructed impoundments. Fracking operators are currently using an untold number of small, quickly-dug waste ponds around the state.

The revisions will also make it more difficult to put well sites near schools or playgrounds.

Gretchen Dahlkemper, national field manager for Moms Clean Air Force, says more should be done to stop methane leaks. But she says the air pollution from the gas industry is so bad now in Pennsylvania, even rural areas are suffering from smog. According to Dahlkemper, the revisions are a step forward.

"Residents are being impacted daily by air pollution from the oil and gas industry," she says. "Any efforts to protect those Pennsylvania residents, especially children, is a good thing."

Some parts of the industry have pushed back against the new wastewater rules as unnecessary and expensive. But Norbeck says the industry needs to do more to protect surface, groundwater and drinking water supplies from the drilling waste.

"All of it is radioactive to a certain level and needs to be dealt with accordingly," he says. "We shouldn't be having these mini-landfills dotted across our landscape."

Pennsylvania's Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board will consider the revisions Friday in Harrisburg.

Best Practices