Suburban Philadelphia Republican State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf is working on a bill that would allocate $2 million from the state’s impact fee fund to study the public health impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling.
Greenleaf has circulated a memo about the bill, which would amend Act 13, the state’s new drilling law. Despite attempts by the state’s public health community, Act 13 passed without funds for a health registry. A similar bill sponsored by Sen. John Yudichak, a Democrat from Luzerne County, failed to gain any traction in the last legislative session.
Greenleaf says knowing any potential health impacts related to drilling is crucial.
“I don’t think we should be afraid of finding out if there’s a negative impact here,” Greenleaf told StateImpact. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to shut down drilling, not at all.”
Act 13 places an impact fee on every natural gas well in the Marcellus Shale formation. The levy will change from year to year, based on natural gas prices and the Consumer Price Index. In 2012, the state brought in more than $200 million.
Private health systems, including Geisinger Health Systems, Guthrie Health, and Susquehanna Health have already begun to research public health impacts of natural gas drilling. Greenleaf says funds from the impact fee could enhance their efforts.