Matthew J. Ehrhart, Pennsylvania Executive Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and member of the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, Friday issued the following statement on the final report of the Commission:
“The final report of the Commission, released today, features key environmental recommendations, as submitted collaboratively by the four environmental representatives on the Commission. The report should lead to heightened protection of our waterways and drinking water.
"Some of those key recommendations include:
-- Providing for substantial improvements in Erosion and Sediment Control and Permitting. While oil and gas well sites have the potential to send large volumes of sediment into our streams and rivers, sites less than five acres are not permitted through DEP according to other, similar, construction sites. Enforcing the same standards on these permits for the oil and gas industry as traditional construction sites will lessen the environmental threats of excess sediment in our waterways.
-- Bringing the County Conservation Districts back into the permitting and oversight process. County conservation districts fulfill a valuable role of providing in-the-field, hands-on information about local environmental issues. Re-establishing their role in the process will help guide the planning, permit review, and inspection of drilling related activities in their regions.
-- Key setback provisions to protect our homes, drinking water wells, waterways, and environmentally-sensitive areas. To better protect water resources, we recommended to mend the state Oil & Gas Act to increase the minimum setback distance of a well pad from a spring, stream, or water body from 100 feet to 300 feet; increased to 500 feet if waterway was designated as either High Quality or Exceptional Value. This will protect our waterways from the obvious encroachment of a well pad operation.
"Despite these, and many other significant environmental recommendations being included in the report, there are still significant environmental issues that remain to be addressed to our satisfaction, and CBF will continue to focus on those issues and publicly call for a cumulative impact study to better understand the long-term impacts drilling has on our natural resources.
“Ultimately, the work of the commission is a starting point for further discussions. I appreciate the opportunity to have served on the commission and look forward to working with the Administration and our General Assembly in taking these recommendations to the next step – well-crafted legislation, regulation, and policy initiatives that will ensure the safety and quality of our natural resources and protect the health of the residents of the Commonwealth.”The recommendations made by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the PA Environmental Council in May are available online.