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Proposed Pennsylvania Law Seeks Fracking Moratorium

Aug 9, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

A Pennsylvania state lawmaker wants to put the brakes on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Marcellus shale there. Rep. Phyllis Mundy (D-120) is the primary sponsor of House Bill 2609, which would impose a one-year moratorium on issuing new natural gas well permits in Pennsylvania.

Drilling in the Marcellus shale, a rock formation rich in natural gas that lies beneath parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Maryland, has resulted in gas boom in some parts of Pennsylvania. But it has also led to instances of water contamination, as well as other problems.

According to a report recently released by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, the state has identified 1,435 violations by 43 Marcellus Shale drilling companies since January 2008. Of those, 952 were identified as having or likely to have an impact on the environment. Keep in mind, there are only about 1,458 Marcellus wells drilled in the state at this time.

A separate analysis by Clean Water Action released late last month found 565 violations at Marcellus Shale gas drilling sites between Jan. 1 and June 18 this year alone. The violation included some particularly disturbing instances, including improper cementing/casing of wells (11) and “illegal disposal of industrial waste” (80). The largest number of this year’s violations, 166, were “General Violations” meaning violations of the Clean Streams Law, Oil and Gas Act, and permit violations

In an interview with the Hazelton Standard Speaker, Mundy pointed to the New York State Senate’s recent vote to adopt a drilling moratorium as an example Pennsylvania should follow.

“That’s what we should be doing,” Mundy said. “I think that’s a very good idea. I’m pleased with New York. I wish we would follow their lead, and I wish the federal government would do more as well.”

State Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121, and Karen Boback, R-117, have signed on as co-sponsors to Mundy’s bill. Pashinski told the Standard Speaker that he favors enacting temporary moratorium in order to allow the state to put better regulations in place for the industry.

“I just feel that after well over 1,000 infractions – albeit some are paper infractions – we just need to slow down the process,” he said.

According to the Standard Speaker, Mundy’s bill was referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on June 24, but it is not known when the committee will take it up.

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