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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Monitor the Impact , Elected Officials Contact

By Laurie Barr

Many of Pennsylvania’s rural communities have been witnessing growth due to gas drilling.Jobs including operators, loggers, electricians, welders, truckers, etc have been created.Many unemployed workers have received training and have been hired by the gas industry.Restaurants, motels, bars and many other businesses are benefiting from the rapid growth.
People have signed gas leases and have received large signing bonuses. Many include
struggling small farmers.
Many families in Pennsylvania have farmed and have lived near poverty and have been struggling for decades. Their family farms providing them with a home, to raise their families for generations and not much else. Industrial technologies developed for larger, commercial farming operations have made it possible for larger farms to produce more at far less the cost.

Rental fees have increased as the gas industry employees have moved to the Marcellus Shale region to work on well sites and pipelines.
As area businesses enjoy the rapid growth, resident’s concerns for water, air contamination, real estate de-valuing grows as rapidly. Areas in Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado have experienced water, air contamination and real estate value plummeting, caused by Gas exploration.

Never has an issue been more polarizing in Pennsylvania as the debate over Marcellus Gas drilling.
Often pitting neighbor against neighbor as gas leases are signed bringing new found wealth to one and inevitable financial hardship to another. The immediate impact on nearby homes as real estate values plummet cause many home owners to become instantly upside down in their mortgages.
Many Pennsylvanians lose the equity they have gained in their homes. The financial hardship created for people who planned to use the equity in their homes or investment property in their retirement years is clearly an undeserved financial burden.

The Gas industry and the people who have signed gas leases have no particular responsibility to safeguard area home values, financial interests of their neighbors or community health concerns.
Many people who sign gas leases move. Who wants to live near the potential associated risk of hydraulic fracturing or an industrial zone?
When property values drop, eventually property taxes follow. This adds additional financial strain
on communities.

The need to protect the public’s health, safety, private and public water sources, air, floodplains, infrastructure and real estate values, against the powerful gas industry, has separated the competent from those who are less competent. Some elected officials in Pennsylvania have listened to the citizen’s concerns and are acting to address the need to protect the public and environment.
Others have chosen the much easier route. Some have suggested joining local volunteer water monitoring efforts, emphasizing the employment benefits, job training opportunities and the economic benefits for the state that come along with the gas industry’s industrializing Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region before addressing the need to increase oversight and much needed regulations to protect local municipalities public health, personal property and infrastructure.

On Nov. 16th,2010 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania enacted “Pittsburgh’s Community Protection from Natural Gas Extraction Ordinance.” This ordinance banned drilling within the city limits.
Many other municipalities across Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Maryland and West Virginia are working toward adopting similar ordinances with the help of The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).
CELDF is an organization that provides free and affordable legal services to activists, community groups, and municipal governments.

Monitoring Pennsylvania’s Watersheds
Local water monitoring has unfortunately become a responsibility of the citizens and is necessary, why do we do it? Pennsylvania doesn’t have the funds or the manpower to monitor all of the local area watersheds that are at risk of being impacted by the gas industry.
Many of our elected officials have encouraged citizens to “help protect the environment ” by joining local water monitoring organizations.
Water monitoring is evidence gathering.
By joining a water monitoring group you are joining
a group of people that are looking for evidence.
Who joins water monitoring groups? Concerned citizens. Many people want to do something and think that somehow, water monitoring will help protect the environment.
What if you find something? The damage has been done.
Water monitoring affords no protection.
You may be able to prove that contamination has occurred, and then it may be added to the list of hundreds of violations that have occurred.
You can download the spreadsheet for oil and gas violations from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP’s) website.
Oil and Gas Industry violations, including discharges, spills, leaks in impoundment liners and overflowing brine pits have occurred and have caused soil and water contamination in Pennsylvania.
While the numbers of DEP environmental, health and safety violations continue to mount
many elected officials have not set eyes on or stepped foot on a large gas well site.
DEP environment, health and safety violations go un- reported to public water source providers, the public and water monitoring organizations. Clearly this is a concern that is in need of addressing.

Many environmentalists have contacted their local officials, signed petitions, and have spoken out against the associated risks posed by hydraulic fracturing. Their voices are being heard and are getting louder.
Many elected officials have responded and are working to address citizen’s concerns.
I applaud the elected officials who are trying to develop safeguards to protect the environment, public health and financial interests. Their efforts are greatly appreciated.
Many elected officials are continuing to avoid addressing citizen’s public health, safety, environmental and financial concerns.
Please take the time and visit the links below to contact your elected officials.

Contact Tom Corbett

Find Your Legislator
Write Your Representative