Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter welcomed the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) and the Shale Gas Insight 2012 Conference last week, but he warned the industry to do more to earn the public’s trust that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is safe.
“Many of us are deeply concerned about natural gas drilling that could compromise water quality in the Delaware River watershed,” Nutter said Friday. “There is no economic opportunity for which jeopardizing our water quality is acceptable. I have yet to see progress from industry on the most important issues, to build public confidence in your practices.”
The mayor said the oil and gas industry should fully fund and participate in the Delaware Valley Early Warning System, an integrated monitoring, communication and notification system launched in 2004 whose partners include the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“And if the industry wants to earn the public’s trust, it will also fully fund upstream environmental monitoring,” Nutter said. “Those enhancements would demonstrate that shale activities are not, and will not, have impacts negatively on the Delaware River watershed.” The industry also should “adequately and fully fund” a forest restoration fund, “to ensure that decades from now, when drilling ends, our forests can and will be restored to better than their current condition.”
The mayor also called on all of the stakeholders involved in Marcellus Shale development to meet regularly to discuss, monitor and evaluate activities in the Delaware River Basin. “I believe that while a moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River Basin is in place, we all have a unique opportunity to establish a foundation, a strong framework, to protect the environment and drinking water for millions of people. Elected leaders and the public across the area are ready to engage the industry, but our trust must be earned. “As every business knows, actions speak louder than words. I look forward to your confidence building action of these issues.”
Scott Roy, vice president for government and regulatory affairs for Range Resources Corp., said the MSC supports Nutter’s proposals. “As the mayor reminds us, the solutions in maximizing the opportunity that we have in front of us is all about civil discussion and discourse,” Roy, who spoke after Nutter, said Friday. “I think we’re all very pleased to have the formal ask presented by the mayor. As to the specifics, the points that the mayor outlined are all things that we are prepared to commit to, working with other similarly affected stakeholders.”
Despite the criticism, Nutter rolled out the welcome mat to the industry and only briefly mentioned the estimated 250 protesters who demonstrated outside the convention hall on Thursday. A smaller anti-fracking crowd was outside the building on Friday.
“I appreciate you choosing Philadelphia for the site of this important conference,” Nutter said. “I hope you’re taking advantage of everything that Philadelphia has to offer, including respecting and appreciating the wonderful right of free speech. We recognize that there may in fact be short-, medium- and long-term economic opportunities created for the region by the natural gas extraction of Marcellus Shale. President Obama is pursuing an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy that includes the safe and responsible development of natural gas resources. [This will] mean more jobs certainly in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.”
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), an interstate compact that manages the basin’s waterways, was set to vote on a proposal to revise its water quality regulations last November, but the meeting was canceled and the proposal postponed indefinitely after Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said he opposed it (see Shale Daily, Nov. 21, 2011). A de facto moratorium on fracking in the basin remains in effect.
With Delaware in opposition, Pennsylvania officials and Gov. Tom Corbett have been trying to convince New York and New Jersey officials to agree to the revised regulations (see Shale Daily, June 21). New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration apparently is working on a plan to allow limited high-volume fracking in five counties in the state’s Southern Tier (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24; June 14). The easternmost portion of Broome County lies in the Delaware River Basin.
Meanwhile, New Jersey officials have called for the DRBC to enact a fracking pilot program with the commission in charge of rules and oversight (see Shale Daily, April 20, 2011). New Jersey also wants drilling initially limited to no more than 30 well pads and 300 wells in the first two years.
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