On October 3 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced plans to implement many of the recommendations made by the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, with the dual objectives of enhancing Pennsylvania's ability to capitalize on the energy resources contained within the Marcellus Shale and protecting the state's environment and natural beauty.
Gov. Corbett's proposal includes a series of standards relating to unconventional drilling, including increased setback distances from water sources, raising penalties for civil violations and enabling the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to take quicker action to revoke or withhold permits for operators who are habitual violators of the rules. Also proposed is an impact fee of up to $160,000 per well, spread over a 10-year period, to be adopted by counties for use by local communities impacted by drilling activities in areas such as public infrastructure, water and sewer systems, emergency response preparedness, surface and subsurface water supplies, records management, affordable housing, social services, judicial costs, oversight of natural gas development and municipal planning.
In addition, Corbett's plan includes measures intended to enhance energy independence and reduce reliance on foreign oil. For vehicles fueled by natural gas, "green corridors" are proposed, with refueling stations at least every 50 miles and within two miles of key highways. Schools and mass transit systems are offered assistance in converting fleets to vehicles that run on natural gas. Industries, such as manufacturers of plastics and petrochemicals, are encouraged to develop markets for natural gas and its byproducts. There is also a focus on stabilizing prices for electricity by using natural gas to generate electricity.
Gov. Corbett will submit those measures requiring legislative approval in the near future and has instructed the relevant Cabinet secretaries to submit implementation plans for the policy-oriented recommendations within 30 days.
Although there will doubtless be some political "horse trading" to be addressed, the governor's plan does evidence a commitment to addressing the immediate and long-term economic benefits and environmental impacts embedded within the Marcellus Shale opportunity.