South Hills Area Against Dangerous Drilling’s Statement in Response to May 2012 Whitehall Spring Report Newsletter Article
For the 2012 Spring Report Whitehall Newsletter, Council President Bill Veith wrote an article titled “The Dilemma of Marcellus Shale Fracking”. If you have not seen this newsletter in your mailbox in the past week, you can find it at this link: http://www.whitehallboro.org/news/leftPanelItems/springNewsLtr12.pdf
In response, we want to agree with Mr. Veith on the following points:
- Marcellus Shale drilling does bring air and water pollution, noise, road deterioration, and other unacceptable industrial harms to our local communities.
- We do appreciate that Whitehall Borough Council at least tried to minimize possible damage by passing a zoning ordinance in December of 2010.
- Act 13 of 2012, which prevents local governments from doing anything substantial to protect its residents from the harms of hydraulic fracturing, was a bad law and should be amended or revoked. We agree that residents should voice their concerns to elected officials at all levels.
However, we would like to identify our concerns with the following statements:
- “It also is cleaner and cheaper than crude oil.” — Although natural gas itself is cleaner-burning than oil and coal, the industrial process of toxic fracking for deep shale gas in the Marcellus formation causes some of the dirtiest problems possible. Take air contamination, for example: (1) exhaust from diesel pumps running day and night, (2) emissions from thousands of heavy truck trips per well, and (3) the noisy flaring of raw gas - all of these combine to pollute the local air we breathe. Air pollution is just one example; water contamination has also been shown to make residents very ill. These illnesses, combined with destruction of property value, also make Marcellus fracking anything but cheap. Visit http://www.shaadd.org/TheProblem.aspx for more information.
- “The abundance of this fossil fuel will provide our country generations of natural gas... it's domestic...” — Multiple recent scientific studies cast serious doubt on the large estimates that were initially made for the Marcellus Shale. In fact, in January of 2012, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) downgraded original estimates by two-thirds: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203806504577178892190235190.html
In addition, calling this fuel domestic misses the fact that after it is extracted from a mile underneath our land, it becomes the property in many cases of international corporations. These companies have already taken steps to ship the gas overseas, sell it on a global market, and even to process it into variety of chemicals or even plastics. Because global demand is increasing with supply, there's no guarantee of lower prices, energy security, or overall economic benefit for the citizens of our country.
- “...it is unconstitutional to totally ban gas drilling in our community” — In fact, the constitutionality of any ban on Marcellus drilling is an open legal question in Pennsylvania. A few laws appear to prevent local municipalities from acting to protect their residents (specifically the Oil and Gas Act of 1984 and Act 13 of 2012), but both the state and federal Constitutions have nothing to say about this question, and no courts have weighed in on the matter. A number of municipalities have gone ahead and banned fracking - they have not been sued, and their bans stand today. We continue to believe that communities that want to protect citizens and property value should consider taking bold action on the basis of inherent Community Rights. Visit http://www.shaadd.org/WhatWeCanDo.aspx for more information on this process.
Finally, Mr. Veith did not mention that in April, Whitehall Council wrote a letter of support for a lawsuit against Act 13 launched in March by a number of Pennsylvania communities. SHAADD commends the Council for taking this action by majority vote to oppose Act 13's unconscionable stripping of local rights, and we would encourage them to make their position more public.
In keeping with SHAADD's Mission Statement, we will continue to work to “educate ourselves and others about the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing and natural gas extraction, and to advocate for our right to protect our communities and environment”, and we hope you will join us!
Members of SHAADD (South Hills Area Against Dangerous Drilling)