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Opinion- Let’s Start a Movement
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By Michael Klimkos

Pine Creek dodged a bullet. Runoff from a drilling site, that contained a surfactant or foaming agent used in the drilling process, was found to be flowing into Pine Creek.  Fortunately the material seems to have no apparent hazardous or long term environmental effects and the situation was corrected.      

            This spill was reported because it was visible.  Had it happened during a snowstorm, an extremely heavy runoff period of snowmelt or during a heavy rainstorm or even at night the chances are it would not have been discovered.  
            Had it flowed into a stream away from a travelled road or been farther in the headwaters it might have never been seen at all.  This leads one to wonder how much else is getting into our waterways and aquifers?  Not all pollutants foam or turn the water odd colors.
            Another significant point is the incident occurred on a site on State Forest Land.  That is public property owned by the citizens of Pennsylvania.  What’s next? Kettle Creek?  First Fork of Sinnemahoning?  Driftwood Branch? The Allegheny River?  The Delaware River?  Thousands of miles of small tributaries?  
            We need to demand that the drillers and the corporatocracy that own the companies and stand to profit most from the drilling be responsible and we need to do that now!  
            We need to demand better of DEP, the Governor and our legislators.  Let’s get the DEP funding to have inspectors able to show up on site at any time on any day.  After all regulations are only as good as the conscientiousness of the drill operator on the rig at 2:30 on a Sunday morning.  Make them know they are being watched!  
            We don’t need more regulations on the gas industry but we need to know everything possible is being done to enforce the regulations we currently have in place.
            Send an email, a letter or visit in person the Governor, The Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection and our legislators.  Let them know that gas drilling can be done responsibly but only if WE demand it.  Otherwise the drillers will get away with whatever they can and we allow them to.
            Let’s hold the Governor and legislature accountable.  The state budget cannot and should not be balanced at the expense of our children and grandchildren having to pay for the environmental sins of this generation.
            Don’t buy into the fact that the gas industry will go away if taxes are put in place or regulations are enforced.  Where are they going to go?  The gas will still be there when they realize they have to extract it in a manner that is environmentally and socially responsible.  Don’t buy into the gas company propaganda that our lifestyle will deteriorate if they can’t drill.  
            A clean environment and drinkable – swimmable – fishable water will benefit us all and generations to come.
            It’s not all gloom and doom though.  Imposition of an extraction tax is almost a no-brainer if it is applied properly.  I would propose that any extraction tax be distributed in the following manner:
-- 60 Percent - Local government of which at least half must be spent on local road, bridge, water and sewerage infrastructure;
-- 15 Percent - Water and waste water treatment grants, with priority given to treatment plants for gas well brines and frac water, acid mine drainage treatment and watershed restoration;
-- 15 Percent - Education at the high school, vocational school and college levels to pay for training Pennsylvanians to drill, operate and maintain gas and oil wells in Pennsylvania;
-- 5 Percent -DCNR for infrastructure repair in State Forests; and
-- 5 Percent - State General Fund.
            This formula allows for small, poor rural communities to maintain what they have and train local people to be responsible stewards.  
            Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a study of the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing.  The study is expected to be completed in 2012.  This is a step in the right direction and good science does take time.  But this is 2010.  What are we expected to put up with until the final report?  
            There is hardly a day goes by without one news organization or another reporting a spill, an accident or some negative incident involving the drilling industry.  We can only expect these reports to increase as drilling activity increases.  
            Together we can force action to be taken before it is too late.  As Arlo Guthrie said so long ago – and I paraphrase here, ".....You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't listen to him.….  And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out.  And friends they may think it's a movement…."  
            Well it is time to make environmental protection a movement.  We can have a clean environment and pure water.  We can have gas drilling that does not pollute or otherwise destroy our natural resources and our communities.  
            First though, we have to demand it.  And if we as a group demand it of our legislators, governor and the people charged with enforcing the regulations we will maintain the right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. 
            Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”  As stated in Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Michael Klimkos is a retired biologist, fly fisherman, writer and editor from Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  He can be reached by sending email to: Klimkos@embarqmail.com.  But if the mayflies are hatching don’t expect a quick response.

 


3/29/2010

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