Brasch 'intellectually dishonest'
To the editor: I read with disappointment Walter Brasch's recent commentary ("Wasting water for corporate profits"). He says so many things that simply aren't true. As a proud alumnus of Bloomsburg University, it is discouraging to see something as intellectually dishonest as this piece authored by someone charged with educating the leaders of tomorrow.
No one can reasonably regard Act 13 as a "sweetheart gift" to the natural gas industry. This act - which Gov. Corbett was proud to champion and work with the General Assembly in enacting - adopted the highest standards for natural gas drilling in the nation. Other states - and indeed other countries from around the world - have come to Pennsylvania to meet with elected officials and policymakers to learn about our standards and how to replicate them. Gov. Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which included several statewide environmental organization representatives, made 24 specific recommendations on strengthening the state's Oil and Gas Act. All 24 of these were included in Act 13.
Mr. Brasch fails to tell readers about any of Act 13's environmental standards that were signed by Gov. Corbett. Allow me to name just a few: increased fines and penalties; significantly greater setback distances between drilling and homes, streams and water wells; increased well bonding amounts paid by drillers; requiring disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals; requiring a water management plan, with a focus on water reuse and recycling; and significantly expanding the legal protections of water supplies. Pennsylvania has also adopted well construction and water discharge standards that are the strictest in the nation, and more than doubled its enforcement staff.
In addition to misrepresenting Act 13, Mr. Brasch's allegation about drilling being exempt from a host of environmental laws is equally troubling. Drilling is not exempt from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act - one of the more egregious falsehoods that is perpetuated by the anti-drilling crowd. Neither is drilling exempt from the federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act or the host of other environmental statutes cited. There are comparable state laws on the books, including the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Streams Law, Air Pollution Control Act and others, that mirror federal law and ensure drilling is done safely and responsibly.
Gov. Corbett recognizes his No. 1 priority is protecting public safety. That's why drilling inspections actually doubled - to more than 10,000 - in Gov. Corbett's first year in office, and his administration levied the single largest fine against a drilling operator in the state's history. And Act 13, thanks to the governor and General Assembly, is also delivering $406 million in impact fee money to communities all across Pennsylvania in just the first eight months.
Pennsylvanians are realizing these environmental protections while also supporting the more than 240,000 fellow citizens who work in the oil and gas industry, and saving thousands of dollars from natural gas and electricity prices that are more than 40 percent lower than just five years ago. That's a story worth telling.
Office of Gov. Tom Corbett