In the face of opposition in the Senate and House to language he proposed to exempt any oil and gas drilling from local regulation as a land use, Gov. Corbett Friday write to members of the General Assembly to justify his position. This is the text of that letter--
Several weeks ago, I shared, with both the House and Senate leadership, legislative language that would implement most of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission’s legislative recommendations. This draft language takes steps to secure our energy independence, to protect our natural resources, to protect the health and safety of the Commonwealth’s citizens, and to mitigate the impacts on our local communities.
I am encouraged by the movement in both the House and the Senate on legislation that advances many of the Commissions’ recommendations. However, there is still a long road ahead of us and common ground to be found. As we forge ahead, I want to discuss one aspect of my proposal that is of great importance.
Since 1984, Section 602 of the Oil and Gas Act has superseded local ordinances as they relate to oil and gas operations. However, several recent court decisions have interpreted Section 602 to allow varying and inconsistent standards across the Commonwealth (Huntley & Huntley, Inc. v. Borough Council of Borough of Oakmont and Penneco Oil Company, Inc. v. County of Fayette). My proposed amendments to Section 602 of the Oil and Gas Act reaffirm and reinforce the original legislative intent of the law. Further, my proposal offers additional, real and meaningful protections for local communities that host natural gas development.
I recognize the importance of ensuring strong and consistent environmental standards across the Commonwealth. My proposed revisions to the Oil and Gas include additional well bonding, setbacks, drinking water protections, permits reviews, and other requirements. The proposal includes new standards relating to the lighting, noise, odor, and security of operational oil and gas sites. In crafting these provisions, we took into account the issues many residents have raised regarding the potential impact on their quality of life. We also included a new provision that would provide municipalities with a forum to raise issues of local importance for the Department of Environmental Protection’s consideration in the permitting process. While many have focused on the local governments that have local standards, nearly 40 percent of municipalities in the Marcellus Shale region currently have no zoning. These amendments to the Oil and Gas Act provide added and meaningful protections to the residents of these communities while still achieving statewide consistency.
The comprehensive environmental enhancements included in my proposal – many of which mirror proposals advanced in both the House and the Senate – substantially raise the bar of what we expect of our natural gas operators. Pennsylvania has a long and distinguished history of regulation the oil and gas industry. These standards build upon that history.
My goals are not much different from that of local governments, conservationists, or other policymakers. We all want clean air, clean water, and safety in this growing industry. These are simple but common goals which unite us. But there is one other goal that we all share – an environment of JOB CREATION in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The enactment of a reasonable, consistent and uniform set of rules across the Commonwealth as it relates to oil and gas drilling boils down to advancing our number one shared focus…jobs.
In 2004, Ohio enacted a broad and sweeping law to preempt all local ordinances as it pertains to oil and gas operations and gave their local governments no voice in the process. This language is being used by officials in Ohio as their “carrot” to job creators in the Marcellus Shale industry. As they continue to attempt to lure Pennsylvania jobs and investment across our western border into Ohio, they most often point to the predictability in standards and rules that the Ohio statute affords them. Further, there are job creators well down the supply chain in the Marcellus Shale industry who are waiting to see if Pennsylvania will enact predicable and uniform standards before making capital investments in the Commonwealth. I do not want to make these job creators, nor these potential capital investments, wait any longer. We need the jobs, and we need them now.
It has been said that the gas underneath our feet is not going anywhere. However, the jobs and investment capital can leave. We must ensure that our pursuit of consistency is equally matched by a commitment to world class drilling standards. The legislative package under consideration achieves these goals. I look forward to working with each of you to advance critical environmental standards while expanding job opportunities across the Commonwealth.