HARRISBURG - More than 1,000 individuals and organizations have signed the letter the Better Path Coalition delivered to Gov. Tom Wolf after a rally in Harrisburg on April 13. The letter has received more than 300 additional signatures since it was delivered, prompting the coalition to resubmit the letter to Wolf Wednesday.
The resubmission comes just days after the governor announced his latest attempt to get a severance tax on natural gas drilling, this time in the form of a bill that trades environmental protections for a tax. The permit review process would be shortened, the Water Encroachment and Obstruction permitting process would be “streamlined” and shortened, the term of a drilling permit would be extended from 1 to 3 years, drillers would be able to submit only one application for multiple wells on the same well pad, and drilling could occur as far as 50 feet from where a well was permitted.
It also comes days after the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved a bill that would roll back environmental protections required of conventional drillers and makes yet another attempt at removing local control over gas drilling operations. For these reasons and so many more, signers of the coalition’s letter choose a better path to a responsive government that puts the best interests of Pennsylvanians over those of the oil and gas industry.
Their sentiments mirror those of a majority of Pennsylvanians’, according to fresh polling from Franklin & Marshall College. The poll released at the end of March found that 69% of Pennsylvanians think the state government should prioritize renewable energy over coal and gas. Public opinion on fracking has soured, according to the poll that found that 55% of Pennsylvanians now think that the environmental risks of fracking outweigh economic benefits.
For many at the rally, the risks of fracking have become realities that have impacted not only their environment, but their health, safety, quality of life, and property value.
“Fracking has ruined my life, destroyed everything my husband and I worked our entire adult lives to build," said Maggie Henry, an organic farmer and member of Beyond Extreme Energy. "The 88+ earthquakes have done real physical damage to our home and property. Why are corporations permitted to do this to people?”
The proliferation of natural gas and hazardous liquids pipelines has caused the impacts felt by Maggie and her family to spread to communities hundreds of miles from the nearest well.
“All this trauma to our environment and our communities so that a company can turn a profit off of Marcellus Shale fracking and another can make plastics. This is not a good path for Pennsylvania. Residents are standing up and are choosing a better path,“ said P.K. Ditty, of Upper Uwchlan Residents for Safety, whose organization has been fighting to stop the Mariner East hazardous liquids pipelines.
“Pipeline infrastructure build-out is unwelcome in a world where fossil fuels are facing fast extinction,” said Arianne Elinich, Bucks County CCAP. “For the sake of the health and welfare of residents across Pennsylvania, our elected officials have an obligation to actively encourage reasonable energy alternatives. Renewable and sustainable energy alternatives that will create more jobs and greater energy independence than natural gas ever will. The time to transition is now.” Arianne and her organization have been fighting the PennEast and Adelphia Gateway natural gas pipelines.
“Pennsylvania is subject to harms to health from natural gas extraction, processing, transport, waste storage, and combustion, according to published research and articles referenced in a new report, entitled, The Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking, 5th Edition. This report compiles and summarizes an avalanche of recent studies with significant reference to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where we are experiencing all aspects of harms to health as the Compendium reveals because the government allows the unconventional gas development industry to operate across the majority of the state,” said Laura Dagley, medical advocacy coordinator, Pennsylvania Physicians for Social Responsibility, who will deliver the The Compendium to Wolf.
"We are demanding that Governor Wolf declare Oil & Gas Drilling Epidemic a statewide Disaster Emergency," said Craig Stevens, founder, Patriots From The Oil & Gas Shales and sixth-generation landowner in Silver Lake Township. "On Jan. 10, 2018 the governor declared the opioid crisis a heath emergency while ignoring the past 14 years of harm done by gas drilling and fracking. It is time to recognize and end our fossil fuel addiction! 'We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality' - Ayn Rand"
As the impacts of fracking are deepening in areas of the state where they’ve been occurring for years and spreading to parts of the state that are now dealing with polluting pipelines, power plants, processing facilities, injections wells, export facilities, and petrochemical plants, fracking is having a powerful impact on climate change.
“When it comes to climate change and the environment Governor Wolf is indeed a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Natural gas is not a bridge fuel. We see no bridge. Governor Wolf has no plans for a bridge,” said Tim Spiese, board president, Lancaster Against Pipelines.
"Climate change is not a religion that you choose to “believe” in. The science is irrefutable. Our planet is warming, and Pennsylvania’s whole-hearted embrace of fracked gas is not in alignment with the direction we must go. According to a Franklin and Marshall College poll conducted in March of this year, 62% of Pennsylvania citizens believe that climate change is already causing problems. They are right. It’s time to choose a better path, one that leads Pennsylvania to the prosperous, sustainable economy and healthy communities that are possible only in a clean energy future," said Barbara Jarmoska, of Responsible Drilling Alliance.
“Pennsylvania doesn’t just have a fracking problem or a climate change problem; we have a democracy problem. We don’t accept it and we’re going to change it. Our system of government cannot remain broken if it is to take the climate action necessary to preserve a livable planet for future generations. The degree to which our coalition has grown in just a matter of weeks tells us that Pennsylvanians are more forward-thinking than their elected officials and regulators,” said Karen Feridun, founder, Berks Gas Truth. (www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/4/15/1757198/-Pennsylvanians-Choose-a-Better-Path-Governor-Wolf)
“We, the people of this commonwealth, are here to claim what belongs to us and all those that follow us: clean air and pure water, the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of our environment. We and our government should be investing in the infrastructure of life and health not disease and death. We and our government should be investing in the infrastructure of resilience, not mass extinction. We and our government should be investing in the people not the powerful. We choose a better path and if our "leaders" won't lead, they need to get out of the way,” said Michael Bagdes-Canning, planning group member, Marcellus Outreach Butler.
"Our actions and words emanate from the depths of the human spirit, the place within us that knows we can only be healthy if the land itself is healthy," said Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, of Green Justice Philly.