Friday, July 23, 2010

Packed House For EPA Marcellus Hearing

The Federal Environmental Protection agency came to Cecil Township yesterday to take input on how it should structure its study of the impacts Hydraulic Fracturing has on drinking water. The meeting was one of four the agency is holding around the country. More than 150 people signed up to speak at the 5-hour meeting I the packed hotel ballroom. It began with EPA employees asking for input from the public on what issues should be part of the study, where the EPA can find important data (both empirical and anecdotal), and what regions of the nation should be used for case studies. EPA Drinking Water Protection Division Manager Ann Codrington says they can only look at a limited number of locations so they want to know why one region is better than another. Robert Donnan of the South Hills says the Pittsburgh region would make a good case study because fouled water is still being dumped into waterways that are used for drinking. “Our county has had two fish kills and dead cattle near drilling. This is quite similar to other [situations] that brought death and destruction, Agent Orange,” says Donnan, “we are still stuck on stupid.” Brian McConnell of Cecil Township invited the EPA on to his farm where a well was hydraulically fractured in the 70’s, “to assist in the historic reference that fracking impacts do not occur from responsible fracking operations.”

Several speakers used their two minutes to highlight subject areas they feel the EPA needs to explore, including Brad Carpenter who wants the agency to look at on-site desalination of flowback water. “Once the brackish water leaves the site or is stored for any length of time, that seems to be when the issues come about.” Angela Wiley is a member of the Pittsburgh Environmental Student Coalition. She says the EPA should look at the re-use of frack water. Robert Hoard says any study needs to take into consideration of the economic impact of any regulation.

A fight seems to be raging supporters of drilling and detractors over the scope of the study. Those who are against the practice want the scope to be as broad as possible while supporters are looking for a narrow study. Supporters also often called on the EPA to base its study on “scientific fact, rather than emotions.” The one place both sides could agree is a desire to have the study completed as quickly as possible. The EPA hopes to launch the 2-year study later this year.

Many of the more than 100 speakers used their time to tell personal stories and vent their frustrations rather than commenting on the study. Listen to a few of their off-topic comments here starting with farmer Terry Greenwood.

No comments: