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Pickett Endorses Bill to Establish Consistent, Strict Standards for Marcellus Drilling
HARRISBURG – To help achieve a reasonable and balanced approach to natural gas drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale deposits in Pennsylvania, Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) has voted in favor of legislation to set consistent, strict environmental standards while authorizing affected counties to enact a fee to deal with related impacts.

“We must emphasize the positive benefits resulting from the Marcellus Shale industry, including thousands of good-paying jobs, a resurgence in small business opportunities, and an abundant supply of clean energy to reaffirm our position as a keystone state,” Pickett said. “But we must be mindful of the environmental impacts of the industry and ensure that our laws set tough standards and follow through with sound accountability.”

House Bill 1950, which was adopted after three days of continuous debate, would set good parameters for a beneficial, working partnership among the industry, state and local governments, and residents. Among its provisions, the legislation would strengthen laws, regulations and oversight dealing with drilling and bring dedicated funding for programs benefitting the state’s environmental resources.

“To ensure the quality of our water resources, we need to make sure that strong and appropriate measures hold drilling companies accountable if ever water is compromised due to drilling activity,” Pickett said. “I am pleased this bill contains many of the landowner protections I have fought for in legislation I’ve already sponsored this year.”

Specifically, the legislation contains strict setbacks from streams, water wells and public water supplies and puts in place a needed extension dealing with the area of presumptive damages to private water sources from the current 1,000 feet to 2,500 feet and from six months to 12 months.

To help financially with the impacts brought on by the drilling, counties where drilling is taking place will be permitted to enact an impact fee. Of those proceeds, 75 percent would be directed to local governments for infrastructure repairs and projects and other drilling-related impacts. The remaining 25 percent would be directed to statewide programs, such as road, bridge, rail and other infrastructure improvements; pipeline safety; emergency response planning, training and coordination; and research into health-related impacts.

Local municipalities would still have the authority to develop their own laws regarding natural gas development in their communities as long as the laws do not conflict with existing state and/or federal law. Additionally, certain zoning requirements would be set for impoundment areas, natural gas compressor stations and natural gas processing plants.

In addition, the income generated from lease and royalty payments would be set aside for conservation and recreational lands along with other local and statewide environmental programs and projects.

Pickett said the House proposal moves Pennsylvania forward in incentivizing public-owned vehicle conversion to natural gas that would lead to cleaner air and be less costly to taxpayers.

“Pennsylvania has been home to many energy opportunities throughout the generations, and once again, we are poised to be a leader in enhancing and managing this resource,” Pickett said. “This is a reasonable and balanced compromise that will help the industry grow while ensuring the protection of our environment and property owners.”

The legislation now is forwarded to the state Senate for its consideration.

State Representative Tina Pickett
110th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Jennifer Keaton 
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