Greater Wyoming Valley

Audubon Society

Position on Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Exploration and Extraction

Adopted September 13, 2010

 

           Natural gas has been much touted as a “bridge fuel” that can help the United States to transition away from polluting fuels such as coal and oil and toward less polluting fuels. Natural gas reserves that are locked in rock formations far below the earth’s surface have been exploited through a process known as “hydraulic fracturing,” or “fracking,” in various parts of the United States , most recently in Pennsylvania ’s Marcellus Shale formation. Although natural gas extraction industry officials claim that the fracking process is safe, evidence from Pennsylvania and other states suggests that the exploration, extraction, and transportation processes are far from perfect. Private drinking water wells and surface waters have been contaminated as a result of activities associated with the gas well drilling process. In addition, air pollution from compressing operations, road damage from large trucks and heavy equipment, noise from drilling operations, surface water withdrawals for use in fracking fluid, disposal of used fracking fluid, the retention of large volumes of toxic fracking fluid in the earth, habitat loss due to pipeline construction, wildlife mortality at retention ponds, and an industry track record that is far from stellar in terms of safety and environmental stewardship are among the public health and environmental concerns that have arisen as natural gas exploration and extraction operations have become more commonplace in Pennsylvania. Moreover, inadequate regulations and/or inadequate enforcement of existing regulations and an apparent absence of clear and consistent guidelines and acceptable practices for natural gas exploration and extraction have compounded public fears that the exploration, extraction, and transportation processes are inherently unsafe.

            Due to the aforementioned public safety concerns and to the potential for environmental degradation resulting from natural gas exploration, extraction, and transportation, the Officers and Directors of the Greater Wyoming Valley Audubon Society hereby express our support for state and federal legislation that is intended to regulate the natural gas industry in general and the fracking process in particular. We support efforts to prevent natural gas exploration/extraction from occurring within proximity (at least one mile) of public drinking water sources, and we further support the imposition of an equitable severance tax on natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania as other gas-producing states have imposed. We also recommend and would support legislation requiring the natural gas exploration/extraction industry to create a fund or a process, perhaps similar to the bonding of roads and supported in total by gas industry contributions, to compensate landowners for the fair market value of their properties in the event those properties are in any way devalued by gas industry activity. In addition, we encourage agencies that are responsible for watershed protection (Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Delaware River Basin Commission, and others) to cooperate to develop consistent standards by which surface water withdrawal would be permitted or denied. Finally, we support a moratorium on the permitting of new gas exploration and extraction sites in Pennsylvania to remain in effect until the Pennsylvania Legislature and the federal government have enacted laws to ensure that sufficient safeguards exist to protect human health and the environment.

            In conjunction with supporting legislation and other efforts to safeguard public health and the natural environment, we oppose the leasing of state forest land and similar public lands for natural gas exploration, extraction, and/or transportation. In addition, we oppose the leasing of any federal, state, county, or municipal parks or natural areas that have been designated for wildlife propagation, recreation, and/or the protection and preservation of native plants, animals, or scenic vistas. Furthermore, we oppose the practice of “forced pooling,” “fair pooling,” or any other such practice that would permit the gas industry to drill beneath unleased properties. Finally, we oppose the granting of public utility status to the natural gas exploration, extraction, and/or transportation industries.

            While we realize that the natural gas exploration, extraction, and transportation industries have become a presence, whether welcome or unwelcome, in Pennsylvania, and while we realize that that presence is likely to remain for some time, we believe that the natural gas industry in general and the fracking process in particular must be strictly regulated with persistent oversight. Moreover, we believe that such oversight by both the state and federal governments is appropriate and necessary to guarantee, to as great an extent as possible, that natural gas exploration and extraction occur safely in Pennsylvania .


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