State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) announced today that he will soon introduce legislation calling for a one year, statewide moratorium on all new Marcellus Shale natural gas well drilling in Pennsylvania.

The legislation would not only prevent further drilling in state owned land, but would prohibit the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from issuing any new natural gas well drilling permits statewide in the Marcellus Shale field.

“An industry has sprung up in our midst that could hold great promise, but it could bring more costs than benefits and has the appearance of re-creating the coal industry of the 1880’s in our state,” Ferlo said.

This past year alone the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued 1,985 Marcellus Shale drilling permits and of that number, we already have 763 wells in the drilling stage or completed.

“Most of my constituents fear ecological and environmental disasters caused by deep well drilling and the threat it already poses to our precious water reserves, streams, rivers as well as the detrimental impact it is having on host communities,” Ferlo said. “We’ve only begun to come to grips with the environmental damage the coal industry inflicted on Pennsylvania.

“Destroyed streams and drinking water, mine subsidence, mine fires and acid drainage, mercury pollution, and more have left us a legacy of cleanup that will span decades and centuries,” Ferlo said. “With this experience behind us, we simply can’t afford to repeat those mistakes.”

Ferlo is proposing a minimum one year moratorium while a study commission is formed to analyze gas well drilling to make recommendations on:

  • Proper protection for rivers, streams, and groundwater from drilling activities, including protecting drinking water, and managing wastewater, storm water run-off, and spills;
  • Proper air quality regulations;
  • The disclosure and consequences of specific chemicals used by the drilling industry, including amounts used at each well site;
  • The appropriate permitting processes, drilling and well inspections, staffing levels, and other administrative responsibilities of the DEP;
  • How to handle liability and bonding at all well sites in the event of likely drilling disasters that pose an environmental nightmare, especially in remote areas;
  • The impact on the state labor market and on how to encourage job opportunities and procurement for Pennsylvania businesses;
  • The financial impact to host communities such as inadequate trucking routes and transport of contaminated water which is produced due to the type of drilling and fracturing method;
  • Property rights of both those leasing land and those adjacent to leased land; and
  • The cumulative impact of existing and likely proposed drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, including an analysis on water quality, air quality, land use, habitat, and human health.

“A new industry is entering our state to a lot of excitement and expectations because of the promise of great economic opportunity, but it is clouding our judgment,” Ferlo said. “We need to take a step back and reexamine the impact that this new activity is going to have on our environment, our state’s tourism industry, our labor force, our water resources, and on our communities and residents.”

Ferlo pointed to the three recent gas well explosions, including one in Clearfield County as evidence that a lot of immediate basic public safety concerns remain unanswered, not to mention long term issues.

In the explosion in Clearfield County waste water was spouting 75 feet into the air, polluting the area around the well. Recently in West Virginia seven workers were injured by a wall of fire that continued to rage days later. And a man in Texas was killed when his crew accidently sparked a fire on a gas line.

“I fear that these few accidents are merely bad omens of what we should expect more of in the future if we don’t take the time to implement common sense protections of the public interests” Ferlo said. “Just the thought that we could see Marcellus Shale drilling in the Lawrenceville community in the inner city next to our developing riverfronts is an unimaginable nightmare and constitutes an act of perfidy on the constituents I have been elected to serve.”


  1. Rustbelt Radio did a great look at the ills of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania:

    and http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2010/05/35218.php#45_00_Marcellus_Shale_in_PA

    Quote: “As drilling proceeds across the state, communities are becoming aware of the destruction brought upon by the extraction process. This includes pollution to the air, land, and water; noise pollution; increased traffic; and negative health impacts. Today Rustbelt Radio will bring you an in-depth report on the various concerns surrounding this highly destructive natural gas drilling.”

    The process requires millions of gallons of polluted water.

    You can see a video of someone who had natural gas drilling on his property light the water from his well on fire by holding a lighter up to his sink faucet. The video is linked from Democracy Now … scroll to time index 32:50 at the video: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/2/23/congress_to_investigate_safety_of_natural

    We DO NOT want exploding water in Lawrenceville.

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