Peter Longini works part-time in Cranberry Township's administrative department and wrote this column for Cranberry Patch. The pending state legislation he references could impact local drilling ordinances across the state, including laws recently passed in and .
Oh, these pesky local governments.
Their leaders keep trying to tell people where they can and cannot set up Marcellus Shale gas drilling rigs. They want to restrict the hours in which companies may conduct their most intensive drilling operations, and they want to impose night noise limits on industrial operations. They also want to keep heavy trucks off local roads, and they want to keep drilling fluids out of local water supplies.
And blah, blah, blah.
Enough of that, according to Gov. Tom Corbett and the state General Assembly. After all, how could local governments possibly know better than Harrisburg what’s best for local residents?
Besides, it’s such a nuisance for a company to have to negotiate with so many municipalities. Why not just tell local leaders to forget all this nonsense about trying to act in their own communities’ best interests. You’ve seen one community, you’ve seen them all.
Smaller government? Fuggedaboutit. What’s good for Harrisburg is good for Pennsylvania, right?
At least so far, the Marcellus Shale boom has been very good to Harrisburg—certainly to the campaign funds of its governor and members of the General Assembly.
Corbett, for example, is reported to have received $1.6 million from the industry. Several senators also are reported to have received generous campaign gifts courtesy of the industry. And there’s a lot more where that came from.
So it comes as no surprise Harrisburg is eager to do the bidding of gas producers who have made it clear that they don’t want all the fuss and bother of actually having to deal with local regulations.
After all, it might cost them so much that they would end up going broke, as did some of the telephone companies and cable operators who have had to work out their deals community by community.
What’s that you say? The phone and cable companies actually aren’t broke? Never mind, it’s the principle of the thing.
Two years ago, amended its zoning ordinance to permit drilling in the Marcellus Shale in certain parts of the township where it would have the least impact on residents and where damage to local roads would be minimal.
Under the current state Oil & Gas Act that’s just about all it can do. Everything else, including site restoration, water supply protection, safety, bonding and reporting is superseded by state law. At least it’s one way a local government can have some influence on the way its community grows.
Both bills would eliminate the right of municipalities to manage drilling impacts through zoning. According to an analysis by the environmental advocacy group PennFuture, they also would bypass the Department of Environmental Protection’s permitt process, set bonding requirements low enough to stick taxpayers with repairing abandoned wells and require county governments to collect impact fees and then have to share the proceeds with Harrisburg.
It amounts to a giveaway on an unprecedented scale. Local residents do all the giving, but get almost nothing in return. It’s what gives hypocrisy a bad name, and Harrisburg is poised to enact it this week.
It’s amazing what money can do.