Range Resources, one of the largest drillers in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale, is threatening to stop drilling in Mt. Pleasant Township (Washington County), PA. A letter to landowners in the Township says, in part, “We may be forced to shift activity to other, more cooperative townships.”
Why the threat? The dispute seems to center on the type of permits that will be issued in the Township if a new ordinance is passed later this month.
The latest group to oppose drilling in the Marcellus Shale is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (“CBF”), a private environmentalist organization that claims to be the largest such entity dedicated to preserving the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Their stated mission is to “Save the Bay,” defined as attaining and maintaining clear water that is free of pollutants, and promoting oxygen levels in the Bay that support growth of underwater vegetation which in turn provides a habitat for sea creatures. The CBF’s concern is that drilling in the Marcellus Shale, much of which sits in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area, is already contributing and will continue to increase pollutants that flow into the Bay.
The CBF has gone on the offensive. CBF attorney and spokesperson Amy McDonnell wants to ensure Marcellus Shale drilling does not harm the Bay.
Regulation and oversight of pipelines, including natural gas pipelines, comes under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Transportation/Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. However, states are empowered to regulate and oversee public utilities, including pipelines that are deemed a public utility. But most natural gas gathering pipelines are not public utilities. Such is the case in Pennsylvania where pipelines are currently inspected by the U.S. DOT. That may be about to change.
A bill has just passed the PA House which establishes Pennsylvanian oversight of all natural gas pipelines in the state: