Monday, November 6, 2023

TribLive Editorial: Is Shapiro's Voluntary Agreement With CNX The Right Move For Gas Well Safety? 'We Do Not Trust Foxes To Guard Henhouses'

This editorial first appeared on November 5, 2023--

We do not trust foxes to guard henhouses.

That makes sense. Foxes have a vested interest in chicken coops being as unsecured as possible. A few missing birds may occur under the best circumstances, but if the foxes are in charge, who protects the chickens from the guards?

Is Pennsylvania entering into that kind of deal with gas well data?

On Thursday, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced a collaboration with a natural gas producer to collect in-depth information about emissions and water quality and improve transparency on chemicals used in drilling processes.

“Pennsylvanians want us to do everything we can to help keep them and their families safe,” Shapiro said.

The agreement between the state and CNX Resources of Canonsburg is voluntary. The company will report its air quality on a website. It will also report what chemicals it is using in drilling — something many companies have been reluctant to do for years as they consider the blends proprietary.

These are good steps. So is moving the buffers around drilling sites from 500 or 600 feet to 2,500 feet around things like schools and hospitals. 

It’s also good that CNX president and CEO Nick Deiuliis says he is committed to “radical transparency.” 

Nice to hear because a lot of Pennsylvanians are concerned about these issues.

But the word voluntary is a two-edged sword. It says that the driller is stepping forward by choice — but leaves open the door to questions about how that participation and transparency is maintained.

CNX has a history with penalties. In 2017, there were fines topping $400,000 for violations in 2015 and 2016. In 2020, there was a $175,000 fine for a 2019 well failure.

It is up to Shapiro to make the arrangement one that keeps security of the proverbial henhouse in the state’s hands. 

He has the background to understand that. He was attorney general when a grand jury pointed out flaws in Pennsylvania’s regulation of the drilling industry and made recommendations, which remain unimplemented.

The governor said he would increase state regulators’ role through executive direction as legislators have not taken action. 

Critics were unimpressed with Shapiro’s steps and the involvement of CNX. 

Not to be outdone, the natural gas industry likewise bristled at the suggestion of additional legal or regulatory demands.

In the end, the move makes the question of safety surrounding Pennsylvania gas wells a question of what is better — letting the fox guard the henhouse or no guard at all?

Upcoming Events

-- University Of Pittsburgh Studies Of Shale Gas Development Health Impacts To Be Discussed At Nov. 14 Joint Meeting Of DEP Citizens Advisory Council, Environmental Justice Advisory Board  [PaEN]

-- PA League Of Women Voters, University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health Nov. 14 Shale Gas & Public Health Conference  [PaEN] 

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Oct. 28 to Nov. 3 - Fire At PA General Energy Shale Gas Well Pad; 5 More Abandoned Conventional Wells; Replugging Shale Gas Well  [PaEN] 

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - November 4  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 57 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In Nov. 4 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]

Related Articles Last Week:

-- Gov. Shapiro, CNX Natural Gas Company Sign Statement Of Mutual Interests To Monitor Air Emissions At Drill Sites, Extend Safety Setbacks While Data Is Being Collected; DEP To Move Ahead With Some Reg Changes  [PaEN]

-- 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] 

-- Attorney General Henry Announces Criminal Charges Against Equitrans For 2018 Natural Gas Explosion That Destroyed Home In Greene County  [PaEN]

-- Marcellus Drilling News: Mariner East 2X Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline Being Repaired After Dent Discovered In Chester County During Maintenance Check  [PaEN]

-- PUC Issues Emergency Order To PA American Water To Operate Troubled East Dunkard Water Authority In Greene County; Lawsuit Filed Alleging Water Tainted By Mine Drainage, Shale Gas Operations  [PaEN]

-- Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force Issues Report On The Best Ways To Increase Exports Of PA's Natural Gas; Minority Report Rebuts Need For LNG Facility, Outlines Impacts  [PaEN]


-- Capital & Main - Audrey Carleton: Gov. Shapiro’s Deal With Fracking Company Splits Environmentalists

Related Articles This Week:

-- Environmental Health Project: Gov. Shapiro Must Acknowledge Health Risks Of Natural Gas Development And Take Meaningful Action To Protect The Public  [PaEN]  

-- Physicians For Social Responsibility PA: Gov. Shapiro's Announcement With CNX Does Not Go Far Enough In Protecting Public Health And The Environment From Natural Gas Development  [PaEN]

-- TribLive Editorial: Is Shapiro's Voluntary Agreement With CNX The Right Move For Gas Well safety?  'We Do Not Trust Foxes To Guard Henhouses'  [PaEN]

[Posted: November 6, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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