Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Daily Item Guest Essay: State Senator Calls Natural Gas infrastructure Public Health And Safety Bill 'Stupid'

By Scott and Jessica Mathias, Health Care Providers

Last month, the PA House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a hearing on House Bill 170, which would expand setbacks for fracking operations. 

The proposed legislation follows recommendations outlined by a grand jury empaneled in 2020 by then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro. 

Jury members examined existing gas industry regulations contrasted with scientific research and found current requirements for setbacks from fracking operations were inadequate.

In the interest of public health and safety, House Bill 170 would extend setbacks from fracking operations from 500 feet to 2,500 feet for homes, schools, public water supplies and other buildings where children and adults work and live.

In recent editorials, north central PA legislators Joseph Hamm and Eugene Yaw have launched attacks against House Bill 170, touting trumped up fears the legislation would harm Pennsylvania’s economy. 

In his newsletter, Yaw used the word “stupid” to describe these proposed setbacks for industrial activity.

During the hearing, two mothers from western Pennsylvania, both of whom are members of grassroots environmental groups, shared testimony about their personal experiences. 

One told of fracking chemicals found in her children’s blood. Another shared details of her children’s health challenges, all of which began after living in close proximity to multiple fracked gas wells. 

Rep. Hamm replied to these mothers that his home is surrounded by multiple well pads and “… we have not had any issues, any contamination, nothing, no issues. Those well pads operate just fine.” 

Far from expressing empathy to the women for their situations, Hamm addressed them with suspicion, asking both how their grassroots organizations received funding, and specifically if money was accepted from foreign governments. 

This appeared to be a “dog whistle” style attempt to discredit their testimony.

Hamm went on to claim that the current setbacks restrict 21% of Lycoming County land from gas development, but the proposed legislation would ban well pads from more than 65%. 

He provided no factual evidence of this statement.

In truth, restricting surface drilling area via the proposed setbacks does not disallow drilling and fracking on the subsurface. 

Technology now provides for lateral drilling up to five miles from the well pad. 

Compare the current 26,400-foot reach of the drill bore to less than 1/10 that distance in the 2,500-foot surface setback being proposed for health and safety reasons.

A videographer with a forward-looking infrared camera showed images of methane and other invisible and odorless gases known as volatile organic compounds which are released from evaporation tanks on well pads as a part of normal operations. 

The video was from a Lycoming County well pad on Route 87 in Farragut.

In hearing testimony, a pediatrician referenced the abundance of scientific evidence found in over 2,500 research studies that show the harmful impacts of fracking on public health and safety.

After the hearing, Hamm declared in an editorial that the gas industry creates “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”   Yaw frequently makes similar claims. 

Interesting that communities bearing the greatest consequences of fracking often have the least to show for their burden. 

Profits go to the corporations and legislators fail to share the fact that 70% of fracked Marcellus gas is shipped out of state. 

According to the state Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry currently employs approximately 72,000 residents; far fewer than “hundreds of thousands.”

Legislators’ indiscriminate pro-industry positions continue even in the face of Pa.’s declining population (down 0.31% since 2000). 

Population of their districts, including Lycoming County, is shrinking. 

The Lycoming Mall is an empty shell and the regional airport has no commercial service despite investing millions in improvements.

Robin Williams once said, “Politicians should wear sponsor jackets like NASCAR drivers, then we know who owns them.” 

Given their voting records and response to House Bill 170, Yaw and Hamm’s jackets should read Marcellus Shale Coalition. 

It is undeniable these legislators have a vested and unwavering bias in favor of the fracked gas industry, causing them to willfully overlook crucial safeguards for residents as well as the growing number of sustainable energy opportunities.

Scott and Jessica Mathias are health care providers and natives of Lycoming and Union counties. They love spending time with family and being in the outdoors. They are now living adjacent to a fracked gas project in the Loyalsock State Forest, Lycoming County.

(Photos: Impacts of constructing Shawnee water withdrawal and pipeline crossing to Exceptional Value Loyalsock Creek in Loyalsock State Forest.)

Related Articles - House Hearing:

-- House Committee Hearing On Increasing Safety Setbacks Zones Around Natural Gas Facilities Heard About First-Hand Citizen Experiences On Health Impacts, From Physicians On Health Studies And The Gas Industry On Job Impacts  [PaEN]

-- Sen. Yaw, Republican Chair Of Senate Environmental Committee, Calls Bill To Reduce Shale Gas Industry Impacts On Health, Environment ‘Stupid’  [PaEN]

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Nov. 18 to 24 - 5 More Abandoned Conventional Wells; 2nd Spill At Same Shale Gas Pad This Month; Village Of Reno Wastewater Cleanup Slow Going  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - November 25  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Posted 47 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In November 25 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  


-- The Derrick: DEP: Little Headway In Reno Cleanup  [PDF of article]

-- The Daily Item Guest Essay: State Senator Calls Natural Gas Infrastructure Public Health And Safety Bill ‘Stupid’ - By Scott and Jessica Mathias, Health Care Providers

-- StateImpactPA - Rachel McDevitt: Southwest PA Families Call On Gov. Shapiro To Fulfill Recommendations Of Natural Gas Grant Jury

-- TribLive Guest Essay: Conventional Oil & Gas Well Plugging Must Continue For Health Of Pennsylvania - By Evangelical Environmental Network

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Reliable Power Means Applying Robust Reliability Standards To Natural Gas Infrastructure 

-- Tribune-Democrat Editorial: Reliable Power Means Shoring Up Natural Gas Infrastructure

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: PA Natural Gas, Electric Utility Prices Are About To Be Reset For The Winter  [Range Of Changes: Natural Gas (+149% to -64.2%); Electric (+18.8% to -25.7%) ]  

-- TribLive: Plans For New Hazardous Waste Landfill Near Yukon, Westmoreland County Suspended After EPA Report  [75% Of Waste Comes From Shale Gas Operations ]

-- The Allegheny Front - Reid Frazier: EPA Finds Spills, Leaks, Heavy Metals At Hazardous Waste Landfill Near Yukon, Westmoreland County

-- Bloomberg: Cooking A Big Meal With Gas Can Produce More Indoor Air Pollution Than Health Guidelines Suggest Is Safe

-- Reuters: Utility-Scale Batteries Becoming Cheap Enough To Make Developers Abandon Scores Of Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants

-- WTAE: Turtle Creek Battery Manufacturer Eos Energy Promising A Safer Environment, More Jobs For The Region

Related Articles This Week:

-- The Derrick: DEP: Little Headway In Reno Oil Well Wastewater Cleanup In Venango County  [PaEN] 

-- The Daily Item Guest Essay: State Senator Calls Natural Gas infrastructure Public Health And Safety Bill 'Stupid' - By Scott and Jessica Mathias, Health Care Providers  [PaEN] 

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Holds Business Meeting Dec. 14 On Water Withdrawal Requests, Including Shale Gas Drilling In Loyalsock, Pine Creek Exceptional Value Watersheds  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approves 19 Shale Gas Well Pad Water Use General Permits In Bradford, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wyoming Counties  [PaEN]

[Posted: November 25, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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