While Pennsylvania's Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board (TAB) said YES on October 27 to moving proposed revisions to the state's oil and gas rules on to the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB), it wasn't before asking for even more time to review a suite of standards that has been in the works for almost five years and already been subject to two public comment periods that generated over 30,000 comments.
The five voting members of the TAB, several of whom have ties to the oil and gas industry, floated a resolution after an exhaustive, five-hour briefing on the proposed rules by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The resolution would allow TAB to present a report to the EQB on the proposed rules at a later date, a report which will not incorporate comments from the TAB's four non-voting members, who represent community and environmental groups and other non-industry constituencies.
Are you keeping up? We can't blame you if you're not as the process to revise the state's oil and gas rules has been fraught with the threat of industry-backed lawsuits, needless delays, and the flat-out dismissal of the public interest by oil and gas industry lobbyists -- this despite strong public support for updated rules to cover everything from leaky centralized wastewater impoundments to the proximity of drilling activity to public resources that would include schools and playgrounds.
Oh yeah, did we say that these rules need to be finalized by March 2016 or the whole MULTI-YEAR-LONG process starts all over again?
The oil and gas industry, and those who are enabling its misguided efforts around these rules in Pennsylvania, need to stop delaying what has been a thorough and exhaustive process and move forward in support of updated standards that will help ensure clean air and water for Pennsylvanians while helping to protect public health and the environment.
Elaine Labalme is strategic campaigns director for PennFuture and is based in Pittsburgh.