Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says he’s worried about the gas industry’s impact on water quality, and has yet to be reassured by the gas drillers that they can extract shale gas without hurting the environment, specifically the water supply for hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians who rely on the Delaware River.
“I recognize that there may be short-, medium- and long-term economic benefits,” said Nutter, speaking at an early morning session of the Shale Gas Insight conference in downtown Philadelphia. “But many of us are deeply concerned about water quality in our watershed. There is no economic opportunity for which jeopardizing our water quality is acceptable.”
Nutter said the gas industry needed to start building trust with Philadelphians, who tend to be wary of lifting a moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River Basin. He laid out a plan for the industry to begin gaining support of officials in Southeastern Pennsylvania, including funds for a Delaware River Basin early warning system, forest restoration and upstream monitoring of surface water.
As protesters outside the Convention Center chanted “ban fracking now,” Mayor Nutter also urged those attending the conference to respect and appreciate free speech.
Responding to Nutter’s remarks, Range Resources director John Pinkerton said the industry needs to do more to educate people about gas drilling.
“I think the Mayor brought up some issues and we need to deal with them now,” said Pinkerton during his keynote presentation. “I think water is misunderstood.”
Pinkerton added that economic benefits from Marcellus Shale drilling have begun to reach the southeastern part of the state with plans to utilize shale gas at the former Sunoco refinery in Philadelphia and the Mariner East pipeline project that would bring natural gas products to the shuttered Sunoco refinery site in Marcus Hook.
“More and more of these benefits are going to flow,” said Pinkerton, “more capital, more jobs, and it will work out great.”