Earth Day Part II: Earth Day’s Revenge

In light of County Council President Rich Fitzgerald’s recent introduction of a plan to allow for drilling of natural gas in Allegheny County, the by-now composting City Paper cover story There Will Be Crud is now must-read material:

In fact, on April 1, the state made it much easier to drill for natural gas.

Prior to that date, some authority over gas wells belonged to the state’s 67 county-based “conservation districts.” Staff in each district handle everything from maintaining nature trails to permitting construction projects. The latter function includes overseeing how construction firms control erosion and stormwater runoff, a major water pollutant.

But this month, state environmental officials stripped the districts of their role in permitting or prohibiting new wells. Industry officials expressed approval. Hanger, says Pitzarella, “has done an incredible job of getting that agency moving very quickly to match the needs of the industry.”

The DEP called the policy changes “streamlining”… (City Paper, Bill O’Driscoll)

DANGER!! WARNING!! STREAMLINING!! BATTLE STATIONS!! This should be intimately familiar authoritarian poppycock!

What’s more, DEP did not publicize these policy changes: Had conservation districts and environmental groups not objected, the public might not have heard about them at all. Even the conservation districts didn’t hear they were being cut out of the process until March 18 — two weeks before the changes took effect.

Another permitting change, one that provides for fast-tracking of stormwater-discharge permitting, was also implemented without public notice. Tracy Carluccio, of Philadelphia-based Delaware Riverkeepers, sounded the alarm after she learned of the change during a talk by a DEP official … at a gas-industry conference in March.

Some activists contend the latter change violates state law, because it did not undergo a process of public notice and comment. (ibid)

And I think to myself… what a wonderful world…

There is one more piece to the story I’m curious about. I wonder who in these parts would be interested in attaining permits for something like drilling for natural gas. And who lobbied Mr. President Fitzgerald into the idea.

I’m in favor of regional and even local energy production, but it seems an awful lot like we’d be regressing by cashing in on fossil fuels now rather than investing in biofuels, wind, solar (yes, solar) and at least nuclear power. The jobs would be better, they’d be around much longer, and oh yeah — we wouldn’t be ruining the County.

One thought on “Earth Day Part II: Earth Day’s Revenge

  1. Mark Rauterkus

    Going after mineral and gas rights and assets within the public owned parks has been a topic of much discussion in certain quarters for a number of years now. This isn’t anything ‘new.’ Onorato has had plenty of firms send him plans for this stuff on a seasonal, if not monthly basis.

    Discussions have happened — internal and with some citizens (park neighborhos mostly).

    It is a hot potato — and it hasn’t hit meltdown temps overnight. Some have been watching.

    Now, find out WHO is on the NONPROFIT PARK BOARD that Mr. Onorato established nearly two years ago and get a golden star.


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