Legislators will soon be considering a bill that would place an “open-ended” ban on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.
The bill, introduced Tuesday by Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) doesn’t place a time limit on the moratorium in order to allow a seven-member commission, created by the bill, to study a range of impacts of hydraulic fracturing on the state.
“It’s not closed because we don’t want to anticipate what the good, bad or indifferent would be of their work product, so in that sense, I guess you could argue it’s open-ended,” Ferlo said in a conference call with reporters, noting that the commission would need at least three or four years to complete the study.
The bill would halt any new permits for natural gas drilling. Some 14,000 wells that have already received permits from the Department of Environmental Protection would be grandfathered in.
The commission would study the environmental, social and economic impacts of drilling. Ferlo compared it to what neighboring New York State is doing as lawmakers there decide whether or not to lift a moratorium.
While a Republican-controlled House and Senate make the chances of a such a bill passing very slim, drilling has also caused a rift in the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. While a majority of members voted in June in favor of a moratorium, some legislators have argued it sends the wrong message. Ferlo acknowledges it’s a bill Governor Tom Corbett would never sign.
When asked how he would face critics who say a moratorium would be unrealistic and even impossible at this stage of natural gas, Ferlo believes there is enough public support to give it a chance.
“I think the growing concern about the manner in which this industry operates in a very unregulated way without very many environmental regulations,” he said. “I think we need to cover all fronts.”
Republican lawmakers have already jumped on the proposed legislation. GOP Chairman Rob Gleason released a statement accusing Ferlo and democratic gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz of “[catering] to the extreme left-wing of their party” and ignoring the economic benefits the industry has brought to Pennsylvania.
Schwarts does not support a moratorium on drilling and recently proposed a severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas.
You can read the proposed Senate Bill 1100 here: