Thanks to a bill passed this June by the state legislature, Pennsylvania now has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the nation to abandon oil and gas regulations after they’ve been fully developed and publicly reviewed. While other states have modernized oil and gas oversight in the wake of the shale boom, no other state has exempted a major part of the oil and gas industry in the process.
The oil and gas industry's amazing power of persuasion resulted in Representative Antonio "Moe" Maestas voting in favor of tabling House Bill 187 - "Disclose Fracturing Fluid Composition" - "in order to give the new state disclosure rule a chance to work."
A chance to work?
Remember that rule? The rule that Governor Martinez's Oil Conservation Commission voted to put in place that requires nothing more than what companies are already required to disclose on Material Safety Data Sheets?
These requirements are supposedly in place to protect industry workers who handle toxic fracking chemicals and additives. Problem is, companies are only required to disclose about HALF of the chemicals they actually use in fracking operations.
There are many tragic and terrible things happening in America’s gas patches. Often residents say that elected officials—ostensibly charged with protecting the public interest—seem to care more about gas industry campaign contributions than the lives of their constituents. Sadly, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, 101 State Representatives, and 31 State Senators just declared them right.
Yesterday in the Senate and today in the House, the Pennsylvania legislature voted in favor of HB1950, a compromise gas development bill that was hammered out behind closed doors under the heavy hand of Governor Tom Corbett. Under the guise of providing “impact fees” to municipalities where gas operations occur, the legislature effectively supported a takeover of municipalities by the State and the gas industry by gutting established and effective local planning and zoning rights.
Through provisions contained in the bill, municipalities will no longer be able to play a central, critical role in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of residents and determining which uses of land are most beneficial.
The drilling industry is really trying to give Texas communities, the environment, and property rights (!) the shaft (please pardon mixing my extraction metaphors).
Last week State Senator Tony Fraser introduced SB 875 which would exempt drilling permit holders from state nuisance law. In a nutshell: if this bill became law, it would turn a permit into a "get out of jail free" card, allowing permit holders to pollute private property -- giving property owners no recourse to sue irresponsible drillers under state nuisance law.
THIS week the drilling industry, under the auspices of the Texas Railroad Commission, is taking another shot at Texans' property rights.
A proposed change to something known as "rule 37" would widen an already iffy circumstance that allows drillers to take a property owner's mineral rights -- without prior notice, without compensation, and without recourse.
Sounds like a horror story, right? The Star-Telegram calls it "eminent domain by another name". That'd be a good way to describe it, if eminent domain were at the discretion of corporations instead of elected government.