FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Trout Unlimited Calls on Pennsylvania Legislators to Take Immediate Action on Marcellus Shale Commission Recommendations
Additional protections needed--legislators must address report’s shortfalls.
Arlington, Va.-- Trout Unlimited (TU) supports many of the recommendations from the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission for improving the commonwealth’s oversight and management of natural gas development. While a step in the right direction, TU calls for additional protections necessary to limit impacts of Marcellus Shale development on fish, wildlife and water resources.
The commission released its final report yesterday to Gov. Tom Corbett.
“The commission’s recommendation to increase the distance from the edge of the well pad to a stream or water body is an improvement over existing regulations,” said Ken Undercoffer, president of the Pennsylvania Council of TU. “However, the recommendation allows the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to waive the distance of these setbacks, which means the requirement could easily be rendered toothless.” Undercoffer continued, “The distance between any major disturbance and a stream is critical to protecting habitat for trout.”
The report also recommends that energy companies set well pads at an even greater distance from High Quality or Exceptional Value streams throughout the state The report does not specify exactly how far that distance should be in order to protect these ecologically valuable streams.
“Pennsylvania has more than 15,000 miles of streams managed for trout fishing—many of which overlap with High Quality or Exceptional Value streams—and trout populations are at risk as drilling permits continue to be issued in close proximity to streams,” said Katy Dunlap, TU’s Eastern Water Project Director. “It’s critical that the legislature pick up where the commission left off and pass legislation requiring setbacks that adequately protect these valuable ecological and economic resources.”
TU applauds the commission’s recommendation to restore the role played by Pennsylvania’s county conservation districts in inspecting erosion and sediment control plans at Marcellus Shale well pad sites. County conservation districts have soil and water management expertise and are based in the region where drilling occurs. The conservation districts know the territory and the local environment and are thus well positioned to inspect a site’s erosion control practices.
The report also recommends that the DEP be given the explicit authority to require a water management plan, which allows the agency to issue a permit for a water withdrawal to a gas company. TU supports consistent statewide regulation of water withdrawals for the gas industry and other large water users across the state.
“The commission’s recommendation to limit gas lease agreements on state forest lands to those that result in ‘no or minimal surface disturbance’ does not go far enough toward protecting these areas,” said Dunlap. “With one-third of Pennsylvania’s forests already leased, a full cumulative impact study should be conducted by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) before considering leasing additional state forest lands—the places where Pennsylvanians fish and hunt.”
The commission’s recommendations represent the points of agreement among agencies, industry and conservation organizations. It is imperative that Pennsylvania decision-makers do not let pass this rare opportunity to strengthen the state’s oversight of gas development. TU calls on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to move swiftly to adopt legislation this fall that gives the DEP and other state agencies the appropriate authority and resources to adequately regulate the impacts of Marcellus Shale development on rivers, streams, forests, fish and wildlife.
Trout Unlimited (www.tu.org) is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.