Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Gas drilling may not be top issue for voters in Pa. governor’s race

Gov. Corbett promoting the Marcellus Shale earlier this year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Gov. Corbett promoting the Marcellus Shale earlier this year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The contributions of Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania from jobs to environmental impacts are still widely debated. But according to an Associated Press report, a recent poll shows it may not be the primary issue for voters in the 2014 gubernatorial race.

Pollster Joseph Morris with Mercyhurst College in Erie told the AP that gas drilling is not foremost on the minds of Pennsylvanians who live outside the small, rural communities where the drilling is actually happening.

More from the AP:

An October Mercyhurst poll found 49 percent of the respondents were in favor of Marcellus Shale drilling, while 28 percent were opposed. But the poll also found that 61 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t believe that drilling companies “truly care about the environment,” and that 63 percent believe that “more regulations are needed.”

Morris said he thinks drilling “was probably more important when Corbett was running for governor the first time,” partly because the debate over issues, such as cuts to education funding, has grown.

He also said that Pennsylvania has a long history of viewing the environment differently than some northeastern or West Coast states.

“Pennsylvanians believe we should use the environment, we should just use it wisely,” Morris said. “This is fundamentally different from other types of environmentalism,” such as states where many people want to totally preserve large areas of land.

But while it may not be the most important issue for voters, drilling is certainly a main talking point on the campaign trail. It is also beginning to revive a debate over whether the state’s impact fee law is the most productive way to get the industry to give back to Pennsylvania communities.

Incumbent Tom Corbett frequently highlights the benefits of shale gas, while a crowded field of democratic challengers, including Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz and two former DEP secretaries, are calling for severance taxes and tighter regulations on the industry.

Comments

  • Toma

    everyone worried about the effects of fracking needs to get involved, increase the concern by calling legislators & attending meetings & protests & organize. We change policy together. HOuse bill500, senate bill 950 need immediate passage. Demand a ban on drilling in and under OUR parks & state forests! Push for a Moritorium statewide & examine the effects on our rivers who have their water stolen ,at the very least! Insist river basin commission take responsible for overseeing pipeline activity. No piprlines in Pine Barrens.

  • Patrick Henderson

    Anyone interested in tighter and higher standards to protect the environment would need to look no further than Governor Corbett’s record. Act 13 adopted comprehensive enhancements to Pennsylvania’s environmental protection laws. Under the Governor’s leadership, and working with bipartisan members of the General Assembly, Pennsylvania’s laws were amended to increase penalties for violations; increase setback distances between drilling and water wells, streams, rivers, buildings, and public drinking water supplies; require hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure while ensuring that health care professionals have access to this information; expanding protections for landowners through expanding the ‘rebuttable presumption’ standard; adopt mandatory inspections and notifications during the drilling process; ease the ability to suspend, revoke or deny permits for violations; and a host of other enhancements.

    Under Gov. Corbett’s leadership, inspections of well sites more than doubled in the first year compared to the last year under Mr. Hanger’s tenure. Legislation for pipeline safety and emergency response has been enacted, while state agencies and local communities are benefiting from over $400 million in impact fees paid by gas operators on top of the over $2 billion in other corporate and personal income taxes generated from natural gas development.

    The fact remains, none of those vying for high office talking about “higher standards” for gas drilling can hold a candle to Gov. Corbett’s record of protecting the environment.

    Patrick Henderson, Energy Executive
    Office of the Governor

    • Scott Brion

      Please, Mr Henderson give us a break! Act 13 is a huge corporate giveaway and everyone knows it. Governor Corbett has indicated that a modest severance tax equivalent to the “market” rate assessed by other states would have deterred development and he was wrong. The industry is growing in PA because the state has vast deposits of highly productive shale not because they have been enticed into drilling here. You claim communities benefit from the $400 million in impact fees, but fail to mention that figure is likely 1/5 of the amount any other gas producing state would have realized under the same development. Communities in PA are being starved by Mr Corbetts shortsighted (and draconian) budget policies and you ignore the $1.6 billion rebate check that the governor has sent to the likes of Exxon Mobile, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell? Shame on you and the Governor!

      As to oversight and environmental protection, please feel free to point out one item in act 13 that was not already a standard industry practice at the time of its passing. Would you care to comment on the overall drastic cuts in the DEP staff levels? Or perhaps you would like to explain the administrations mania with expediting drilling permits and its policy of stripping regional offices of responsibility in favor of centralizing authority in Harrisburg (where to my knowledge there are not too many actual oil & gas operations?) The fact of the matter is that Governor Corbett has proved himself time and again to be the best friend of Texas based industry while one is left wondering whether he has any concern at all for Pennsylvania citizens

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1522786448 Scott Cannon

      Stripping away of local zoning laws and a physician’s gag order of fracking chemicals is immoral and unethical. You boss is a very bad man. Congratulate him on his new overpaid gas job when he loses the election. You’ll get a cushy gas job too, I suppose, Patrick.

    • env121

      You have got to be kidding me!!! First off, the Governor took away our zoning rights. We won in court, and he is using our tax dollars to fight the citizens of this Commonwealth on our win in court. Secondly, he inserted the Medical Gag rule into Act 13 and later pretended that he didn’t know how it got there. If it was such a mistake, why on God’s Green Earth isn’t he fighting to get rid of the Medical Gag rule???

      There are citizens that have called in and demonstrated water quality issues to the DEP as long as 2 years ago that have NEVER BEEN ADDRESSED yet.

      People in Washington, PA have lost their drinking water to gas drilling and Range paid for hooking them up to city water, yet they are defying state law about permanently replacing the water. These people are now stuck paying monthly water bills that they didn’t have before.

      People around compressor stations are getting sick! Every time a legislator attempts to address problems and do right by the people of PA, one of his legislative lackeys steps in to put a halt to us being protected.

      Governor Corbett is the worst thing that has happened to PA EVER! Act 13 is a giveaway to the drillers and he knows it. So do you!

    • env121

      You can wish and hope and dream all you want that gas drilling is not a big issue in this election. We are here to prove you wrong and we are ready, willing and able! Just hold onto your chair and watch!

      • Carol Anne Donohoe

        Amen!

    • env121

      Mr. Henderson,

      The lawsuit between the Kiskaddens and Range Resources has been all over the internet and in the news. There are court orders instructing Range Resources to submit the list of chemicals used in the wells there. Their answer to a court in our Commonwealth was a big, fat; “We don’t know what chemicals were used at that location.” Now the family members have cancer, yet your pet Act 13 is supposed to cure all that.

      Here’s the deal. Act 13 makes it law that “all drillers” must disclose the chemicals. It’s clear and a matter of PUBLIC RECORD that Range has no clue what they are putting down that well, or any other, for that fact. If they don’t know what chemicals they are using, it’s pretty darned obvious that they haven’t disclosed them to the PADEP. Where is their Notice of Violation? Why aren’t they shut down for not complying with Act 13? Have you since checked to see if the other drillers are disclosing their chemicals, because we sure are checking and not liking what we are finding.

      So, you have this “wonderful law” that you are accrediting to the Corbett administration, yet there is ABSOLUTELY ZERO ENFORCEMENT of it! And even if Range did disclose, the doctors hands are tied in helping their patients. You call that an accomplishment? We are watching this and awaiting the Notices of Violation for every single Range Resources well in PA, because every single well is operating outside the law by not disclosing the chemicals. You can bet your bottom dollar that we will use the non-enforcement of this at election time.

    • Carol Anne Donohoe

      Either you are joking, Patrick Henderson, or you think Pennsylvanians have been doing nothing but watch American Idol for the past 3 years. Inspections of sites have doubled? Doubling a negligible amount still gives you a negligible amount. Act 13 is a hideous piece of legislation designed solely to take away the rights of municipalities to regulate gas drilling operations in their communities. That’s why municipalities stood up against it. Act 13 also imposes a gag order on physicians’ ability to share information with their patients, and affected communities, about toxic chemical exposures. Yes sir, Corbett is really looking out for us! We’ve been watching, Mr. Henderson, watching as time and again Corbett has sold OUR clean drinking water, OUR Penn’s Woods to the highest bidder. You’d better believe fracking will be an issue in the next election – for Republicans and Democrats alike!

      • Carol Anne Donohoe

        Also, the reason other candidates may not be able to “hold a candle” to Gov Corbett’s record is that he’d be obliterating the candle with his gas flare!

        • Just passing By

          PLEASE SHOW US HOW!!!! Act 13 also imposes a gag order on physicians’ ability to share
          information with their patients, and affected communities, about toxic
          chemical exposures

          Blah Blah Blah

    • Ed Kwiatkowski

      Who are you kidding? Corbett’s record is coddling the gas companies at the expense of the environment and the rights of Pa. residents. Act 13 was a farce, mainly written by the industry, for the industry, taking away the rights of the townships, residents and medical professionals.

    • Tom Frost

      Mr. Henderson is, similarly to his boss, so worried that the gasmen “might walk away”, that if he was one of my neighbors, he would have been the first to sign, for $5. an acre. Billions of extra dollars that could have been royalty money for Pennsylvanians, are leaving the state now in the form of what the gas companies were BUDGETING for a real severance tax. Anybody who actually lives in the Marcellus Shale and has done much gas-lease negotiating knows that this need of the gas companies to budget enough for a possible (REAL) severance tax was the arguably-biggest reason that they stopped their royalty offers at around 20%, instead of 25% or 30%, in late 2009.

      • wendylynnelee

        Fact is, a severance tax accomplishes nothing with respect to compensation for disease, community destruction, and the ultimate contribution to climate change of not leaving the gas in the ground. Money–regardless the amount–cannot cure CANCER; money cannot repair damaged lungs, brains, cardiovascular systems, musculatures, or fetal damage. Money cannot recreate community cohesion once it is destroyed. Money will not magically recreate an endangered species once it is decimated. Money cannot return a fragmented forest into anything but a dull yard. Money cannot rebuild a mountain top flattened by bulldozers and gutted with pipeline.

        To argue that a severance tax would have been an acceptable answer–some sort of panacea–to address the disaster that is industrialized extraction is like arguing that rocks (in this case shale) have magical healing powers.

        Amount of compensation, moreover, for the very few whose royalties are substantial can never make up for the losses to health, property value, community, and ways of life for the many who will bear the burden for that few. The idea that throwing more money at property owners who own enough land to profit off extreme extraction will make up for the damage done to their neighbors is trickle down economics at its most perverse. The wealthy whose land and water is destroyed WILL leave. And the less advantaged will be left to clean up an irreparable mess.

        Both the impact fee and the severance tax are part and parcel of what I have begun to call “Cadaver Cosmetics,” namely: put a little lipstick, some blush, and a dab of mascara on the cadaver that is Pennsylvania after the vampire-drillers are done sucking her veins dry and no one will know the difference. Plant some grass and shrubs where that mountain was, put a picnic table on it, and after a while no one will know the difference–or rather, they just won’t be able to trace the disease to its source–and that’s all that matters.

        • Tom Frost

          Money indeed won’t go very far on those things, but it’s still the language spoken in most of the real world. Therefore, Wendy needs to either crack open her dictionary of it and begin doing SOME speaking of it (like I, very uncharacteristically of my own identity too I might add, have begun in recent years to do), or be irrelevant.

    • Brett Jennings

      Lets see, the PUC is having a hard time keeping the few pipeline inspectors that we had, are we back up to 11 yet. Then most of the gathering pipelines do not even fall under the PUC jurisdiction to inspect. The new environmental laws added to the oil and gas act through Act 13 are to punish municipalities that have rules for land development with the municipality. As a Republican elected official, chairman at a sewer authority and environmental consultant, I can say that the DEP is not here to protect the people, but to manage the discharge of pollution to acceptable levels. Unfortunately these levels are politically driven, not scientific based. Just think of the changes in 1996 to the 1986 amendments to the clean water act and how that affected what chemicals are tested for in drinking water. The Act 13 money is to replace the taxes from trailers that are torn down and replaced with RV parks, the homes purchased by gas companies and torn down due to contamination that they agreed with in an agreement, the increased damage to the roads, Having 102 inch wide trucks on roads not approved for these trailers. Then to add insult to injury our little borough has to have an MS4 permit or a stormwater permit. The problem is who is going to pay for these improvements to reduce Nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments. It will be the sewer plants, stormwater discharges and farmers making up for the development of well pads, pipelines and other infrastructure for the gas industry. Well at least in the Chesapeake Bay water shed. Then there is the increase in crime associated with the drilling industry. I was exposed to a sheriffs association meeting summary about North Dakota and sent it to our sheriff to review and he thanked me for that.

      All we are going to do is use this Impacts of drilling money is on impacts, not lowering taxes like we should.

      Corbett should go back to Waste Management and start suing townships again over not allowing the dumping sewer sludge or bio-solids. It is either that or lose to the democrats.

    • Celia Janosik

      Act 13 is just that, an act to make the average Joe believe this republican administration cares about people and our environment. It gives future generations toxic waste sites, polluted water, earthquakes and radioactive landfills among many other large problems. Those unfortunate people living less than a mile from any drilling activity or equipment will become sick. Children and fetuses will have their development damaged due to Endocrine DIsruption. There is no such thing as clean (burning) natural gas, as carbon monoxide is given off and flaring certainly does not look pollution free. The Love of Money is Killing us.

    • bobby z

      Mr Henderson, I do recall some statistics on these inspections that you speak. As I understand it, the drillers are required by statute to be inspected at different stages of the drilling. Am I correct so far? Can you disprove that in 2011, less than 20 percent of the wells under drilling were ever seen by state inspectors? Translation: over 80 percent of the wells drilled were lacking oversight. I have heard from three inspectors themselves at a town hall meeting stated that they were ordered by Harrisburg not to write up the Marcellus companies with big fines. Most of the spills and accidents are self reported. If you actually believe the current administration’s actions are beneficial for the environment, you need many more inspectors that are not tied down by orders from above to stop doing their job. By the way, before you got appointed or hired to your job, did you have any training in fields like chemistry or biology? I bet your course of study was nothing in the real science field but took to something akin to political science which in fact is void of science. When this state refuses to fund the Health Department to track the cases of sickness in our state, you from your high office can write ‘there are no cases of sickness from the industry’. The main problem with Act 13 as I see it is that it handcuffs medical workers with a gag order that forbids the caretaker (doctor or nurse) from informing their patient of the causation of their sickness. Mr Henderson, if this is your definition of “Gov. Corbett’s record of protecting the environment.” I dare say your are misguided or in fact, disingenuous. Of course it could also be ignorance but I doubt that.

  • KeepTapWaterSafe

    Republicans don’t want it to be a top issue. Their job numbers don’t add up (PA still totally lags in un-employment), gas production is down AND lease-holders are getting screwed,,,, it’s not exactly a success story! It should be easy for democrats to slam dunk the fact that Republicans wouldn’t shale drilling TAX — yet, I suspect, democratic leaders who are supported by enviros are concerned that they’ll lose that support if they even mention the words “gas tax.”

    And we should all get behind SB1171 and HB100, right Mr. Henderson? These two bills would raise the renewable energy portfolio standards in Pennsylvania. Our state currently produces a full 1% of the world’s carbon pollution. Republicans will probably say they are costly new mandates, but the considering that PA is currently the 3rd largest carbon producer in the US, Democrats really ought to make an issue of it. Liz R.

  • Victoria Switzer

    The Republicans would like you to think this is just business as usual-yet of course on a grander scale, since we are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. Business as usual translates into corporate greed, profits before people’s health and safety and “rewards” for the disciples. Whether you live in the gasfields or not, all citizens of the Commonwealth are going to feel the impact of the gas rush. Although the affluent may not have a rig in their front yard or a compressor station within walking distance, they will share the consequences. Air travels and aquifers can be compromised.

  • DoryHippauf

    Act 13 was written by the natural gas industry in conjunction with American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and rubber stamped through Harrisburg.

    All told, Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry and its trade groups
    spent $3.37 million on lobbying between January and September 2011,
    according to Department of State records ON JUST ACT 13.

    The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group in Washington County, led in lobbying expenditures, laying out $1.2 million. Range Resources finished second.
    http://commonsense2.com/2012/06/naturalgasdrilling/marcellus-shale-coalition-in-the-lobby/

  • DoryHippauf

    Sometimes it seems as if we
    are spinning our wheels, preaching to the choir, and not making progress.

    Consider this:

    The Marcellus Shale
    Coalition spent over $1,000,000 just to lobby for Act 13 in Pennsylvania.

    The Natural Gas Industry has spent over $23,000,000 in campaign donations to Pennsylvania candidates.

    Gas and Oil lobbies have spent $71,182,656 this year alone.

    Individuals and political action
    committees affiliated with oil and gas companies have donated $238.7 million to
    candidates and parties since the 1990 election cycle.

    Add in the amount of money
    spent on public relations, television ads, radio ads, bill boards, magazines
    and newspaper ads. Add in the cost of
    labor to maintain and produce all of that, plus the time and money for
    presentations, smoozing the public, and damage control.

    TV commercials during the Olympics aren’t
    cheap.

    That adds up to one large pile of money.

    Well,
    people, and I’m talking to YOU the real people, ask yourself – would it be
    necessary to spend all of that money if we weren’t making a difference? If our efforts weren’t having an impact, would
    the Natural Gas and Oil companies be spending money to rebut our concerns,
    divert attention and wrap it all up in sunshine and daisies?

    NO. If we weren’t effective in our efforts, the Natural Gas and Oil industry
    would not have to spend money on public relations, lobbying, and campaign
    donations.

    Keep up the good work. Make ‘em Spend
    their Money.

  • Stephanie Gonzales

    Gas drilling is a top issue for my family and me. Mercyhurst college has a geology program that thrives on drilling.

  • Carol Anne Donohoe

    Please believe me when I say: gas drilling WILL be a top issue for Republicans and Democrats alike. Make no mistake about that. The people of Pennsylvania want a moratorium, the PA Democrats voted on a resolution for a moratorium. We are NOT going away.

  • Michele Bowers

    Living in PA this should be a main issue in the race. We need to be aware of what the Big$ corporations want from our state and our environment and what we are willing to give to them and at what price. PA residents need to put the breaks on now through legislation.. letting big government stamped once again through our natural resources unchecked….this is not an option.

    • JK

      Wow 10 wells all around me here in New Milford and have heard no complaints other than you outsiders.Something doesn’t add up here.

  • wendylynnelee

    Why should ordinary Pennsylvanians take fracking to be an important campaign issue when some of the people most negatively impacted by natural gas development have gotten on board with a candidate–John Hanger–who claims that despite all of its well-documented hazards, “[s]hale gas in the US is no Ponzi scheme, resting on sketchy reserves, as some have recklessly asserted, but a durable economic bonanza that could return energy intensive manufacturing jobs to many communities” (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/08/shale-gas-fracking-good-for-environment). No one buys into the Saudi Arabia of natural gas bridge to renewables argument more fervently than John Hanger–and no one should know better just how flawed is this reasoning than residents of Dimock. So to see just such folks–and their compatriots in, for example, Breath Easy Susquehanna County–fall behind a gubernatorial candidate who rejects his own party’s moratorium resolution is at least baffling–and it is certainly disappointing (http://www.hangerforgovernor.com/families_affected_by_gas_drilling_endorse_john_hanger_for_governor).

    But besides these, it is rank hypocrisy to bemoan the fate of the “citizens of the Commonwealth” all the while endorsing a candidate who is as deep in the pockets of the gas companies as any Republican, and promoting practices–”best practices”–that will encourage only more fracking with its immediate consequences in disease and its long-term consequences as climate change.

    As for Patrick Henderson–the only place beyond which we need to look no further is Pennsylvania legislation like SB 259/HB 1414 HB 1717, SB 367, and HB 1576–just to name a few, all written by and for the gas companies to expedite their profit margins at the expense of our private property rights, our health, our endangered species, and our public lands.

    Henderson’s reference to Act 13′s provision to ensure “that health care professionals have access to this [exposure to toxins] information is particularly perverse since this provision includes the infamous gag order on physicians in direct violation of the Hippocratic Oath as well as the principle of informed consent–and in so doing trades the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians for the protection of frack chemical trade secrets. To boast that this is good for Pennsylvanians takes the sort of arrogance that the Corbett administration is known for–but that John hanger has also done very little to oppose.

    What these polls suggest is only that the gas industry pitch to “cheap, abundant, American!” has been successful–and that’s not surprising. After all, polls also show that many Pennsylvanians remain unconvinced about climate change, evolution, and the fundamental humanity of gay and lesbian people–but climate change is very real, evolution is a bedrock of the life sciences, and that we’re even still debating fundamental humanity should embarrass us.

    Fracking, its massive industrializing infrastructure, its contribution to climate change, and its potential to destroy entire ways of life–especially in rural communities–is also very real. There are no “best practices” or “regulations” or “middle grounds” that will accomplish anything beyond slowing slightly the rate of irreversible harm. And until we make THAT the clear issue for our fellow here in PA and everywhere there’s frackable shale we will continue on the course of being converted into a resource colony for whomever is willing to pay top dollar for the gas.

  • RHytonen

    Will “Impact Fees” replace your town’s ENTIRE infrastructure, after being beaten on from a weakened and poison-riddled rock layer below, AND from the pounding of endless huge heavy trucks (for which the roads were NEVER designed or built) from above? Will the ancient corroded gas lines under there (or the shoddy hasty new ones above, carrying dangerous LNG) withstand it, or will they explode and blow the entire neighborhood to hell, as they did in Sissonville WV?

    And when the pressurized (lost)) poisoned millions of gallons of water (pver 100 million gallons PER PAD) eventually work their way into what they’ve left you of the aquifer, through decomposed well casings (and they ALL do eventually, 50% of them in 30 years,) will those “Impact fees” ALSO be enough to supply ALL the water your town needs, for any and every purpose, FOREVER?

    Actually it won’t matter, because the air will be so painful to breathe. and the town such an ugly unlivable industrial hell, that you will have left. You CAN afford to just move away, when your property value sinks below half, your insurance triples, and your mortgage is called in, right?

  • Garys_opinion

    Do you think not?

    Really? A .25 cent per gallon gasoline tax increase plus other fee increases?

    What needs to be done is to stop putting highway taxes into the general fund and bring back the dedicated highway tax fund, and make mass transit be self sustaining.

    Then there would be plenty of money to repair roads and bridges.

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