Opinion: We Support Gas Drilling as Long as It's Done Safely

Sen. Chuck McIlhinney forwarded Patch two letters in response to a recent op-ed piece about gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

On Saturday, we published for supporting what some view as a toothless stance on the gas drilling industry in Pennsylvania.

The letter clearly struck a chord, eliciting opposing viewpoints from those who support and those who oppose the process of fracking and the rules Pennsylvania legislators are drafting to regulate the industry.

Monday, Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R, 10th District) forwarded two letters to Patch in response.

The first is from several state senators questioning the law's provisions as written.

The second is a letter of qualified support for gas drilling, written by David Sanko, head of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. (Editor's note: Sanko was Bucks County government's chief operating officer from 2005 to 2009.)

Here is the text of the first letter, dated Jan. 25 and addressed to Senators Joseph Scarnati and Dominic Pileggi.

We are writing to express our concern on the issue of local ordinances relating to oil and gas operations contained in the current versions of Senate Bill 1100 and House Bill 1950.

We want to express our oposition to language that removes a local municipality's ability to regulate and control all land use in their area. We do support the ACRE concept in allowing the Attorney General or other entity's review to provide for the reasonable development of oil and gas. However, we feel the language contained in the current version of the bills goes far beyond that concept and actually works more like a model ordinance by specifically spelling out permitted uses.

We look forward to continuing this discussion with you to identify ways in which to provide for reasonable gas development while at the same time preserving municipalities and local citizens the right to control their own land use.

The letter was signed by McIlhinney and fellow Senators Tommy Tomlinson, Edwin Erickson, Richard Alloway II, John Rafferty Jr., Steward Greenleaf, Patricia Vance, Michael Folmer, and Bob Mensch.


Here is the text of the second letter, dated Feb. 6, and addressed to members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate:

On behalf of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, (PSATS), and its Executive Board, I write to offer comments on the conference committee report on HB 1950. PSATS represents 1,455 townships of the second class that comprise 95% of Pennsylvania's land mass and 5.5 million people. Because virtually all of the current Marcellus drilling is occurring in townships, our membes have had a bird's eye view of the impacts (both good and bad) brought to Penn's Woods by natural gas exploration.

Over the past two years, there has been much discussion about the impact of natural gas development in the Commonwealth. In recent weeks, this has reached a fevered pitch as many have worked diligently to finalize a new intended law. There were many moving parts and issues on the table. Emotions ran high at times. There have been compromises and accommodations all through the process, but all with the end goal of making Pennsylvania a better place to live, work and raise a family.

In this current sluggish economy, PSATS certainly welcomes the jobs and economic development opportunities that natural gas development brings as well as the opportunity to reduce our national dependence on foreign oil. However, PSATS remains interested in preserving the quality of life of Pennsylvanians and our environment. That said, we support the benefits of exploration and production of our Commonwealth's natural resources as long as it is done safely.

To summarize the past year, we support enhancements to current law to better protect our environment, (land, water and air). We support the creation and enhancement of pipeline standards to provide for the safe transport and distribution of these resources. we support the devleopment and enhancement of public safety mechanisms and emergency response plans that will ensure the maximum protection of Pennsylvanians. We support market development programs to encourage greater utilization of natural gas. We support the distribution of a local impact fee where a significant majority remains in affected communities enabling them to deal with devleopment related costs today and in the guture and to avoid local proerty tax increases. And most importantly we oppose the total elimination of local control including land use, and instead support the maximiumj possible retention of local decision making authority in order to rpovide for the reasonable delveopment of natural resources consisten with law.

Everyone has always agreed on protecting our environment, promoting economic development and promoting public safety. From our perspective, the disagreement was about the imposition of a fee to allow an industry to pay its fair share and the rules of occupation/land use. We are pleased to have fought hard to convince participants of the need for a local impact fee as included in the conference report. This will prevent any costs associated with this exploration from being saddled onto the backs of local taxpayers. We are equally pleased to have been able to thwart the "nuclear-like" attack on local land use decision making which would have resulted in a statewide, one-size fits all total preemption of local decisions. That being said, we recognize the value of reasonable and commonsense standards that offer a level of predictability for economic growth so long as it is coupled with local "boots on the ground" community protection afforded by local government leaders. This Conference Committee report provides for local ordinances that comport with this Act, the MPC and Flood Plain Management Act and that may also be reviewed by the Public Utility Commission for reasonableness and common sense.

While we remain concerned about pipeline placement, we will anxiously await the Governor's Energy Executive's 1-year performance review of pipeline issues. We applaud the work of the General Assembly leaders, members and staff; the Corbett-Cawley Administration, its Advisory Commission and staff; and are especially grateful for the participation afforded to PSATS in this process. We believe the Conference Committee report on HB 1950 hits the mark on these important criteria and represents the best document yet to make sure that Pennsylvania gets it right this time. We would ask the General Assembly to adopt the Conference Committee Report.

The letter is signed by David Sanko, Executive Director, PSATS

Dave Meiser February 14, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Mr. Millinery did not address ANY of the issues discussed in my letter There is no discussion of the fact that this legislation 1) Adopts one of the nation’s lowest extraction fees. 2) Contains weak and watered-down environmental protections 3) Confers special rights on the drillers over other businesses in Pennsylvania, 4) Destroys local communities’ rights to use zoning ordinances from drilling damage and withholds funds from any municipality that attempts to use those rights. Rather than responding to the direct issues he sends canned responses and letters from other political appointees. Also the final legislation still destroys local zoning ordnances, the exact issue which concerned Mr. McIlhinney's as noted in letter proved. Yet he voted in favor despite these concerns not being resolved! The point of my letter was this was poorly crafted legislation with no input from the public and is typical Harrisburg politics. The Bucks County delegation should not have allowed the "politics as usual" and stood up for the people not the gas drillers!
Dave Meiser February 14, 2012 at 04:10 PM
One more point: Considering that the executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors was the Bucks County government's chief operating officer, Lt Governor Cawley was a Bucks County commissioner and Mr. McIlhinney is a bucks county state senator it should be appetent that this old boys club. Is covering for each other and not looking after the welfare of the citizens of PA!
jan geiger February 14, 2012 at 09:36 PM
This is a dangerous thing in this populated area, believe me,I have ground upstate and they have distroyed that part of the state, beware, thay are coming to take over your land and water, not glad to here this down here, very very dangerous and total distruction of land and water
jan geiger February 14, 2012 at 09:37 PM
all backroom deal done, u will not like this here in bucks county, kiss it goodby
jan geiger February 14, 2012 at 09:39 PM
not at all, this gov just signed the bill and there it is, your water and land and air will be horrible, I have ground upstate and they are distroying it


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