The more natural-gas drillers burden the state’s resources, the more Gov. Corbett digs in his heels against taxing the industry.
The latest accident occurred in Bradford County, where a well drilled by Chesapeake Energy blew out Tuesday night. It leaked thousands of gallons of chemical-laced fluid onto the ground and into a tributary of Towanda Creek. Residents of seven homes were evacuated. Chesapeake has suspended all post-drilling activity on its wells in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio until it figures out what went wrong.
The state Department of Environmental Protection this week also asked drillers, pretty please, to stop disposing drilling wastewater at 16 municipal and commercial water-treatment plants. A study by Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has found that drilling discharges are polluting the Allegheny River.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents most drillers, said it would comply with the voluntary request. It’s the first time the trade group has acknowledged that drilling wastewater is contaminating sources of public drinking water.
High levels of bromides in water have been linked to cancers and birth defects. Yet the Corbett administration continues to treat the industry with kid gloves. The DEP should have issued an order with legal enforcement powers, considering what is at stake.
As all this was happening, Corbett on Monday<NO1>4/22<NO> gave his most detailed explanation of why he thinks it would be wrong to impose a production tax on drillers. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state that doesn’t charge a tax.
Corbett said drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation is “the only industry that’s really growing in Pennsylvania.” He still clings to the belief that a tax would drive drillers out of a state that possesses the mother lode of natural-gas deposits.
He also said he won’t ignore environmental protection. “I will not let them poison the water,” Corbett declared to applause. A day later, the spill in Bradford County occurred.
Corbett’s administration is taking other steps to protect water quality, including expanding the scope of water tests to screen for pollutants. But the governor has done little so far to treat drillers as an industry in need of greater regulation.
Day after day, drilling companies are proving they deserve greater oversight and that they should pay a larger share of the costs they are imposing on the state.