PA lawmakers consider new law for statewide regulation of drilling
NPR recently reported that a new Pennsylvania law updating the state’s old Oil and Gas Act may restrict municipalities from zoning and regulating hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Hydraulic fracturing is a process used to release petroleum, natural gas, coal seam gas or other underground substances for extraction.
Presently, local regulations vary as to where rigs can drill, how loudly they operate and their distance from buildings. Supporters of the booming natural gas drilling industry are attempting to have those rules standardized across the state, but critics are worried about local governments being unable to regulate its drilling activities.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are currently considering a measure which would assign an “impact” fee for Marcellus Shale wells, and would set statewide guidelines guiding local government as to how they can and can’t regulate. The law would give the state attorney general the ability to sue the local government and ban its reception of revenue from the impact fee if it failed to abide by the regulations.
Supporters of the measure say it will help build up the drilling industry and create jobs. Some critics say statewide regulation would overly restricts local governments, and others oppose statewide regulation for fear that it will restrict local communities from banning drilling in communities situated on ideal drilling land.
An earlier version of the measure reportedly would have prevented all local regulation of natural gas drilling, but the latest version sets strict limits on regulation.
Ohio, which also has numerous shale deposits, has already passed statewide zoning consistency. Some are worried that, if Pennsylvania fails to support the industry, it will move over to Ohio.
Two different versions of the bill have been passed, on in the House and the other in the Senate. In the coming weeks, lawmakers will attempt to work out the differences and come up with a new law.
Source: NPR, “A Debate Over Who Regulates Gas “Fracking’ In Pa.,” Scott Detrow, November 30, 2011.