Truck traffic on Pennsylvania roads that is generated by Marcellus Shale drilling operations has cost the state $30-35 million more than the industry is providing for road repairs, according to a report by the state's Department of Transportation (DOT).
The costs are being incurred on major traffic arteries that "are experiencing significant damages," according to the report, which was prepared as part of the transition from current Gov. Ed Rendell's administration to incoming Gov. Tom Corbett, who is scheduled to be inaugurated in Harrisburg Jan. 18.
In addition, while agreements are in place that ensure the industry will pay for excess maintenance necessitated by drilling-related truck traffic on another 2,000 miles of secondary roads, "there have still been significant impacts" to DOT's budget.
"The Department is spending approximately $6 million annually to support Marcellus oversight on these posted roads," the report said. "Approximately $4.6 million can be recouped from the industry by invoicing the Marcellus companies, but additional permit fees need to be considered to recover all costs."
The implication that the natural gas industry is short-changing its infrastructure responsibilities is off target, according to the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC).
"The shale industry in Pennsylvania has -- with private dollars and with no assistance from the government -- invested probably north of $200 million thus far in repairing and reinvesting in Pennsylvania's infrastructure," MSC spokesman Travis Windle told NGI's Shale Daily. "That's a significant number. That number is going to continue to grow, and that work is overwhelmingly done by local contractors. So we're repairing the roads; we're leaving them better than we found them, and at the same time we're helping put local, small family businesses to work."
In a poll conducted in northeastern Pennsylvania earlier this year, 56% of respondents cited damage to local roads as a problem they thought could be created by the growth of the gas industry (see Shale Daily, Oct. 8). Overall, public opinion was "largely supportive" of development of Marcellus Shale production, according to researchers at Lycoming College's Center for the Study of Community and the Economy, who polled 370 likely voters in the state's 10th congressional district, which includes all or parts of 14 northeastern Pennsylvania counties.
Pennsylvania State Police have conducted periodic crackdowns on commercial vehicles that haul wastewater from Marcellus Shale gas drilling sites (see Shale Daily, Oct. 7).