Natural Gas Drilling & Fracking

Green Party of Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Resolution


Adopted by consensus, April 2011

Whereas Marcellus shale natural gas is not a transitional fuel, but an impediment to a clean energy policy that conserves energy and develops solar, wind, geothermal, micro hydro and other renewable technologies, and

Whereas methane (CH4) a greenhouse gas and the principal component of natural gas is more harmful than carbon dioxide (CO2), and

Whereas the Energy Act of 2005 exempted the oil & gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and

Whereas natural gas fracking results in a level of devastation on the scale of the previous oil, timber and coal exploitation of our natural heritage, and

Whereas the byproducts of the hydrofracking process include the release of radioactive materials into the environment, and

Whereas hydraulic fracturing squanders our precious water resources and poisons drinking water, private wells and public supplies, and

Whereas natural gas extraction poses dangers, including explosions, threatening those employed by the industry as well as the general public, and

Whereas Article 1, Section 27 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania states, “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people,” and

Whereas there is a total failure to regulate extractive industries including the failure to prevent illegal water withdrawals by the oil & gas industry in Western Pennsylvania, and

Whereas Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have passed ordinances calling for a ban and a moratorium, respectively,

Be it resolved that, we, citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and members of the Green Party of Pennsylvania, call for the termination and prohibition of all natural gas extraction involving the use of our Commonwealth’s water resources. We call for a ban immediately stopping all high volume, slick water, horizontal fracturing of deep shale, including exploration, in Pennsylvania and worldwide.

Be it further resolved that the Green Party of Pennsylvania believes the short term economic benefits will be dwarfed by the long term economic and environmental consequences of natural gas extraction. Any and all political and legal means must be employed to protect our environment.

In the interim, the right of local communities to protect themselves and assert their rights through local ordinance is supported by the Green Party of Pennsylvania.

Previously adopted in 2009

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

- Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Article I, Section 27

Poisoning Pennsylvania

Interest in drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation has been one of the hottest energy developments in the U.S. in 2008. An initial wave of over 900 PA drilling permits were approved in June, and that number is likely to multiply several times over during the next year or so.
The type of drilling used on the Marcellus Shale formation involves fracking: pumping a mixture of sand, water, and chemical additives under high pressure into the shale to fracture or break up the shale so as to release a greater flow of natural gas.
Fracking even a single natural gas well consumes millions of gallons of water, which can be a significant burden on local water tables.
As things currently stand, frackers are exempted from having to comply with the Clean Water Act. This means they can legally poison the water. By hiding behind a claim the chemicals are proprietary knowledge they are not even required to inform the public of the chemicals that they are pumping into the ground, which can include methanol, diesel, anhydrous ammonia, ethylene glycol, toluene, xylene, various other complex hydrocarbons, some of which are proven carcinogens, hydrogen sulfide (aka hydrosulfuric acid), other industrial acids, arsenic, and possibly even radioactive barium!

Each well produces millions of gallons of industrial wastewater that require cleaning.While the drilling is occurring, each well typically stores their fracking water in a pit near the drilling pad. If these pits overflow or leak they contaminate local water supplies and cause environmental damage.Worse yet, each well typically leaves 20-25% of the toxic fracking water (i.e. over a million gallons per well) in the ground. That in-ground pollution has the potential to poison aquifers that provide local drinking water. Residents of Ridgway, PA, found their spring water supply poisoned by local drillers. The water was unfit even to shower in, as it burned and interfered with breathing.

For these reasons New York City has demanded a ban on drilling near their Catskill Mountain water reservoirs.Even the construction and use of the drill pads and access roads can scar the landscape and cause environmental damage. In just a couple months of operation, Pennsylvania has already had several environmental violations, including an oil spill and the fouling of various waterways.Now imagine these effects multiplied by thousands upon thousands of wells, as many as 2 per square mile, across much of northeast PA!It is bad enough that private individuals incur this risk, but now the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is getting into the act, having recently opened 18 plots of Pennsylvania State Forest land totaling 74,000 acres for natural gas drilling by the highest bidders!

What Should We Do about Natural Gas Drilling & Fracking?

The Green Party of Pennsylvania believes that despite the apparent short-term economic benefits, Marcellus Shale gas drilling will have a net negative economic and environmental impact for Pennsylvania. We do not need these fossil fuels. We should instead be conserving energy, and developing clean, renewable energy sources, activities which if structured effectively can also create jobs and spur economic development.
The Green Party of Pennsylvania calls for…
• Termination and prohibition of all natural gas drilling involving the use of chemical additives or fracking in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Natural gas drillers must be required to comply with the Clean Water Act and must not be allowed to pump poisons in Pennsylvania.
• Drillers conformance to existing environmental laws should be vigorously enforced. Severe penalties should be placed on violations to ensure that all drill operations place a high value on protecting the environment and complying with the law.
• Enactment of a severance tax on removal of natural gas. The present and future citizens of PA ought to be compensated for the share of drilling costs externalized to them, the risk of pollution, and the loss of the resource to future generations as a result of its current privatization. Most states have a severance tax on the extraction of natural gas. Typically this tax is less than 10%. Pennsylvania is apparently the only major natural gas producing state that lacks a severance tax.
• Prohibition on any and all natural gas or other fossil fuel drilling on public lands. At the very least, no drilling should be allowed on public lands without the specific approval of the owners, i.e. the voters of Pennsylvania, in a public referendum.
• No drilling should be allowed without a water use and reclamation plan approved by both the Commonwealth environmental agencies and the local communities whose water resources would be adversely impacted. Such a plan must make the drillers responsible for the costs, rather than allow them to externalise costs to the community, avoid adversely impacting aquifers, and require that fracking water be recovered from the drill site, cleaned, and reclaimed.
• Promotion and investment instead in sustainable clean energy sources, e.g. solar and wind power.
The Green Party also supports the right of local communities to protect their local water systems from poisoning by drillers who frack by enacting local taxes and environmental ordinances. While the state believes their authority supersedes that of localities, the Green Party contends that power rests ultimately with the people in communities, who should in principle be free to enact local environmental protections more stringent than those enacted by the Commonwealth, and that as a matter of self-defense, it is imperative that they do so. Local communities need to develop local ordinances governing what is and is not acceptable to them, and vigorously enforce the statutes they create. We encourage local citizens to use groups like ActionPA and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) which exist to aid local communities in these efforts. And we encourage community groups and the conscientious citizens that constitute them to consider running for public office to better protect their communities from this threat.

More Information about Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Drilling & Fracking

Wikipedia Article on Marcellus Shale Formation
Catskill Mountainkeeper Summary
ProPublica Article: Anatomy of a Gas Well
ProPublica Article: Officials in Three States Pin Water Woes on Gas Drilling
ProPublica Article: 16 Cattle Drop Dead Near Mysterious Fluid at Gas Drilling Site
ProPublica Article: With Natural Gas Drilling Boom, Pennsylvania Faces an Onslaught of Wastewater
Sun-Gazette index of news stories on PA Natural Gas drilling
What is in frack fluid?