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Fracking the Marcellus Shale, Severance Tax, and PA Legislators Asleep at the Wheel

By Anaiis Salles

The last Tuesday of the month is our regular committee meeting night for Green Sanctuary. This past Tuesday, however, we had an opportunity to support a NIM sponsored event at the Germantown Jewish Centre. We rescheduled our meeting for next week, and five of us attended the screening of “Split Estate,” a documentary by Debra Anderson, highlighting the consequences to two Colorado communities where subsurface mineral rights super cede surface property ownership rights.

You know the story. Small community unknowingly ravaged by big energy corporate interests and players. Residents of small community put up with being too close to ponds, wells, streams that are contaminated by the process of “making” energy. Carcinogens, neurotoxins in the water and air, while mining and drilling companies assure everyone there is no danger, despite the fact that the stream on your property can be lit with a match. We saw Erin Brockovich, right? And the remarkable and painful story of how Erin helped expose PSE & G, and their callous disregard for human life, playing the acceptable risk percentages. Profit versus really expensive lawsuit. Profit versus the high likelihood of not ever being held accountable in a legal proceeding.

We saw that movie. And what about Love Canal? Or the very expensive fight with General Electric over PCBs in the Hudson River, and the price tag of remediation?

Well, those of us sitting in the auditorium were getting a preview. What’s happening in Colorado now, with an additional 10,000 wells poised to be drilled without sufficient regulation to protect the citizens of Colorado from having to suffer, and pay for, the staggering costs of illness, treatment, and loss of quality of life, or life itself? This is what Pennsylvanians have to look forward to, in addition to “gaining industry jobs.”

Drilling and fracking have already begun in the Marcellus Shale. Given that Marcellus Shale is one of, if not the biggest, underground depositories of natural gas in the Northeast, given that peak oil is behind us, given that profits from the big energy players are not being channeled into research and development of practical energy alternatives — well, I guess Vermont can kiss its aquifers good-bye. These aquifers, already being depleted to supply drinking water in plastic bottles that leach BPA, these aquifers will be sucked dry by Nestle and other bottled water companies who will have a ready market when Philadelphia residents worry that our water supply is safe. Vermont’s aquifers are below the surface and are not protected by state regulations which apply to ground water use or contamination. Neither are aquifers supplying safe drinking water owned by the public or by the state of Vermont. Another interesting example of “split estate.”

Rep. Gregory Vitali, of Delaware County, is doing what he can to fight the environmental fight in Harrisburg, but he doesn’t have the clearly expressed will of Pennsylvanians supporting his David v. Goliath efforts. If Toomey is elected, we can forget any regulatory protection or tax income to offset the additional and ignored cost of more environmental toxicity. What’s the real cost of natural gas when you add in pain, suffering, medical bills? Is it still clean and cheap?

Rep. Vitali suggested we consider the future of support for a severance tax on drilling if we have a change in Governors. He also reminded us that Americans want to be able to turn on their lights and TVs, millions and millions of kilowatts of energy, 24/7.

Here’s a different perspective: The two documents by which Americas steer its ship of state, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, were both penned by candle light.

Sure, use this quote…just give me the attribution. Thanks.

I videotaped to post-screening discussion. These segments are posted and numbered (Part 1, and so on). Search USG Marcellus Shale.

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