What do the recent Pennsylvania and Colorado examples of industry's attempt to suborn reasonable state drilling oversight demonstrate?
The need for federal regulation of drilling/fracking.
In Pennsylvania, drilling stinks
Today's Philadelphia Inquirer editorial points out that the suspicious, some (me, for example) might even say “stinky”, chain of events regarding the state of Pennyslvania's relationship to the drilling industry.
This matters, of course, because of the industry's increasing presence in the state as it drills the Marcellus Shale gas formation underlying parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland and West Virgina.
To recap the chain of events:
- Pennsylvania Governor Rendell supported taxing drillers and using some of the funds to regulate the drilling industry.
- Then he changed position, opposing a severance tax on one of the most profitable industries in the world because it would inhibit drilling.
- Then Rendell's deputy chief of staff quit to take a job with a company with drilling interests in the state.
While this was going on, the PA drilling regulation budget for 2010 was steeply cut.
Colorado doesn't smell so good either
Colorado is one of the states that has improved oil and gas regulations over the past few years — thanks to the hard work of landowners around the state, and a strong coalition including (patting ourselves on the back) some of our work too.
And our collective success, which the industry fought tooth and nail, is now being used to prevent federal regulations — as this Denver Post columnist observes.
But what industry doesn't say, as they make that case, is that they're trying overturn the very regs that they cite as the basis for foregoing federal oversight.
What do the Pennsylvania and Colorado examples demonstrate (beyond the obvious influence of the drilling industry)?
The need for federal regulation
It demonstrates that state regulation of the drilling industry is insufficient. Pennsylvania is not the first time that the drilling industry has co-opted state government. Colorado is not the first time the drilling industry has been caught talking out both sides of its collective mouth. Nor will they be the last.
The response to this likelihood should not be to give up. Instead it is to push for more and continued oversight through the state legislature, and perhaps even more importantly:
make sure there's a baseline of strong federal regulation of the drilling industry. With federal regulation comes the opportunity for public involvement in the decisionmaking process, and a regulatory process less susceptible (than the state process) to suborning by industry.
It's that reasoning that brought us the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, etc.
Take a stand
If you're of a mind, you can help start establishing this baseline of reasonable regulation of hydraulic fracturing (drilling) by urging your Congressional representatives in the House and Senate to cosponsor the FRAC Act.