At a Harrisburg rally yesterday, there were petitions signed by 100,000 people for Gov. Tom Corbett, and State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) announced he will introduce legislation calling for a temporary moratorium on any new Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
Ferlo said with 10,000 wells operating, it's time to take a step back because evidence has grown of water contamination and air pollution, as well as adverse impacts on personal health property values and the state’s billion-dollar industries: agriculture and tourism.
If and when a moratorium is declared, Ferlo has called for an independent study commission to evaluate environmental and health concerns related to the drilling. He said the industry came into the state and started drilling before laws and regulations were in place.
And even now, Act 13, which governs drilling, is woefully inadequate, Ferlo said. He has introduced 17 amendments to strengthen the law.
A related issue is in the courts. Last July, the Commonwealth Court overturned Republican-backed legislation establishing statewide zoning that required municipalities to allow drilling even in areas where it conflicted with their local zoning rules.
According to Ferlo, Democrats and environmentalists are waiting for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reaffirm the rights of local zoning powers.
"I think in addition to the moratorium, we need to go back to Act 13 and strengthen it with health and environmental regulations," Ferlo said. "At the same time, it's very important that local decision makers can continue to have the upper hand in deciding where and in what manner Marcellus Shale (drilling) may or may not happen."
Ferlo said it will be a battle to pass moratorium legislation, but he thinks the cause will gain supporters as more people become aware of the effects of drilling, and he thinks it will be an issue in the gubernatorial election.