Letters Extra: Can't claim any rush to drill

A drilling rig is seen in Springville, Pa. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, FILE)

Contrary to your recent editorial (No rush to drill near the Delaware), there has actually been no rush to drill in the Delaware. For over four years, the Delaware River Basin Commission has failed to finalize rules related to natural gas development within the basin. How long is reasonable to expect a government entity to do its job?

In the interim, protections for public health and the environment have only been strengthened under Gov. Corbett. Rather than criticize state environmental policies, the Inquirer should recognize them for what they are: national models of how to "do it right."

Under Corbett, inspections of well sites more than doubled, to 10,000, compared to former environmental chief John Hanger's last year in office. Corbett closed the loophole created by Mr. Hanger which let Marcellus Shale wastewater be discharged into streams and rivers. And he worked with the legislature in crafting a fair impact fee, which has generated over $400 million in just the last 9 months. All counties, including Philadelphia, are benefitting from these fees.

Corbett also championed passage of Act 13, a sweeping enhancement of our oil and gas act. Setbacks from streams, buildings, wells and drinking water supplies were all increased. Fines were tripled. Water protections and bonding amounts were significantly expanded. We adopted the most transparent fracking disclosure law in the nation. We provided funds for emergency response, state agency oversight, and we increased funding for conservation districts and state authority over pipeline safety.

Drilling operators did not leave the basin because of soft prices and other market issues. They left because the DRBC has failed to do what it is required: complete the task before it. As a result, thousands of Pennsylvania landowners were deprived of over $187 million in leasing fees. Imagine the economic stimulus this private capital would have in the region.

Thanks to Corbett, Pennsylvania is leading the way in protecting our environment while encouraging the safe development of natural gas. This abundant gas has lowered prices for PGW customers by over 55% since 2008 - translating into average savings of nearly $90 a month.
Pennsylvania is overseeing this development responsibly. It's time for the DRBC to follow suit.

Patrick Henderson, Energy Executive
Office of the Governor, Harrisburg