If you drink water, read this.
If you bathe, shower, swim, fish or own land in Pennsylvania, read these few hundred words and then ask critical questions beginning with this one: Do you trust state lawmakers to adequately watch over an industry that's swept across the commonwealth in a matter of years, sunk thousands of wells into the earth and shot chemicals deep below private lands and public forests, all in pursuit of billions of dollars in wealth?
Marcellus Shale drillers might have passed over Luzerne County a few years ago when this territory didn't prove financially lucrative enough for the extraction of natural gas. But shale-smashing operations are near at hand, as hunters and others who amble into the wilds of Wyoming and Northern Tier counties can attest.
And, besides, the proximity of the nearest natural gas wellhead doesn't absolve you from being responsible for what happens in Penn's Woods during your lifetime, or protect you if an accidental spill, deliberate violation or unforeseen circumstance should poison a drinking water supply.
Drilling in Pennsylvania - anywhere in Pennsylvania - has implications for all its residents.
So you should be aware that recent reports suggest you are not hearing the full story about Marcellus Shale drilling, certainly not from TV commercials with happy farmers parroting the industry spin about jobs and safety.
A group of research organizations, for example, took a multi-state look at the natural gas industry's impact on job growth and found it fell far short of claims.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and the Keystone Research Center were among the study's collaborators to release their findings last month on drilling jobs in Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and three other states.
"Industry supporters have exaggerated the jobs impact in order to minimize or avoid altogether taxation, regulation and even careful examination of shale drilling," said Frank Mauro, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute in New York, a study participant.
The researchers said their study "points to the need for state and local policymakers to collaborate to enact policies that serve the public interest."
Separately, a pair of self-described "independent" investigative journalists based in Potter County debuted a documentary earlier this year called "Triple Divide," which contains allegations about Pennsylvania drilling activities - including a bombshell that could reverberate across the state.
A screening of the film was held this month at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, during which the audience heard:
■ The natural gas industry has successfully argued to dismiss certain baseline water tests, in which people's drinking water is analyzed for methane and other substances before the drilling of nearby gas wells, saying the results were flawed. In some cases, the industry even has rejected its own test results, say the filmmakers, who refer to the situation as the "predrill scandal."
■ Traditionally testing has been used to provide a before-and-after look at water wells, with chemical analysis helping to show if a well has been contaminated and, if so, with what and possibly how. However, the film recounts that, in at least one instance, the scientific findings of a predrill test were later tossed based on comments from one person: The well owner said his water sometimes had tasted unusual.
■ If one predrill water test in the Keystone State no longer has legal merit, do any of them have value? If not, what does that mean for thousands of property owners who previously considered them Gospel? And why pay hundreds of dollars for testing that, it seems, the industry can simply argue away as irrelevant?
■ State regulators have failed to crack down on what the film's promoters call "illegal burials of potentially radioactive waste in Exceptional Value Watersheds." This should alarm trout anglers and anyone who appreciates the formerly pristine places in which the headwaters of Pennsylvania's creeks are found. And everyone downstream.
■ Legal settlements reached with people who contend that tainted water or drilling-related activities damaged their health typically include gag orders, prohibiting them from talking about it. How can the Keystone State effectively gauge drilling's potential health impacts, and form a response, if secrecy rules?
In light of these and other concerns about drilling - such as its social implications on communities, habitat destruction and air quality issues - shouldn't our state lawmakers be talking about subjects beyond how much money the Marcellus Shale industry generates?
Shouldn't someone demand Pennsylvania's top priorities be the public good and the protection of its resources?
Published Dec. 11, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.
If you drink water, read this.
Forced-pooling hearing should include those affected
It's hard, after all we’ve seen, to imagine that the long-simmering debate about fracking for natural gas is as simple as either side says it is.
Protecting reporters and the right to know
If it had been solely up to government officials at the time, how much do you think Americans would have learned about the Watergate break-in and the White House cover-up that followed? Maybe nothing.
Dispute over meetings warrants public attention
Something funny is going on in Pulaski Township.
Mister Rogers vs. the Unity Tree
I was walking by Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue last week when struck by our city’s “Unity Tree.” It’s a curious thing about the Unity Tree: it only comes out at Christmas time — yes, Christmas.
Drilling anywhere in PA has implications for all
If you drink water, read this.
Sudden snow sometimes creates idiots on roads
Spring in December seemed to have sprung last Saturday when the sun was shining and the mercury rose above 40 degrees. The prediction of freezing rain for Sunday appeared way off the mark.
Online gambling study ordered for Pennsylvania
Coming on the heels of a report noting that total revenue from Pennsylvania slot machines for November was down 1.3 percent from last November, the state Senate recently passed a resolution, calling for a study of gambling in Pennsylvania, including the possibility of legalizing online gambling.
Obamacare stumbles over the basics of signups
Every new program is bound to have a few glitches. But what’s happening right now with the nation’s new health insurance program and online signup efforts is disturbing. And it creates uncertainty regarding the entire concept of health care reform.
Anti-cyberbullying efforts may be having effect
Parents everywhere must be rejoicing, because a new poll suggests that cyberbullying among students seems to be decreasing.
A veteran, 90, recalls Patton, Ike, freedom
I recently took my two teenage sons to a talk by Frank Kravetz, a 90-year-old World War II veteran who survived Hitler’s Nuremberg prisons. Frank published his story in a memoir, “Eleven Two: One WWII Airman’s Story of Capture, Survival and Freedom.”
- More Opinion Headlines
- Forced-pooling hearing should include those affected