HARRISBURG – July 2, 2020 – State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) today announced legislative language to create a constitutional amendment banning hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. Leach’s announcement comes days after Attorney General Josh Shapiro unveiled a special grand jury report into harms inflicted by the fracking industry on the health and well-being of residents of Pennsylvania.
“We can no longer hope that this can be done safely when the stakes are so high and there is so much evidence to the contrary,” Leach said. “My staff and I have been touring fracking sites all over this Commonwealth for the past 10 years and have heard from real Pennsylvanians about how their lives and their property have been ruined by this industry. We all know the environmental impact is deeply troubling, but the human impact is intolerable.”
“I once thought we could live with fracking, and that we should push for stronger regulations while passing a severance tax so we could fund worthwhile initiatives. I’ve learned I was wrong,” Leach continued. “To those living not just near the wells, but also near the pipelines, compressor and pigging stations, there is no amount of money that makes it worth the impact to their health and property. Pennsylvania’s Constitution grants the people of our Commonwealth the right to “clean air” and “pure water.” It’s now time to stop fracking in Pennsylvania, and I’m confident the people of Pennsylvania will agree.”
Leach circulated his proposal to Senate colleagues last year and again earlier this year in the form of a memo. Leach today announced the policy’s language as Senate Bill 1217. The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, on which Leach sits.
Hydraulic fracturing of natural gas began in PA in 2004, long before the PA General Assembly passed Act 13, which updated the Oil and Gas Act of 1984 to address the new technologies of this toxic process. For far too long, this industry has been completely exempt from critical federal regulations that are in place to protect citizens: the Safe Drinking Water Act; the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and four other important protective environmental regulations. It was up to the states to do the rest, but the passage of Act 13 did not makeup for the lack of federal oversight, nor did it require the fracking industry to reveal the names and amounts of the toxic chemicals used in fracking. Act 13 also does not account for the high levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMS) in the sludge and drilling wastewater that is being trucked to landfills throughout the Commonwealth. For example, in a 12 -month period there was a reported 2.7 billion gallons of liquid waste and 1.2 million tons of solid waste.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has acknowledged 349 cases of groundwater contamination caused by fracking. Since the industry keeps the names of the chemicals secret, it’s been impossible to determine precisely what chemicals in the fracking process are contaminating our air and water.
“I began losing confidence in DEP and the industry’s ability to keep people safe from the harms caused by this process years ago,” Leach said. “Unfortunately, the recent grand jury report issued last week has validated my concerns. After interviewing dozens of witnesses, the grand jury believes that while many DEP employees have good intentions and were doing the best job possible with limited resources, it does seem like the oil and gas industry has its own lobbying pipeline to DEP employees, who chose to ignore most of the calls from citizens in the drilling fields that were experiencing water and air contamination as well as serious health problems.”
“Pennsylvania’s fracking experiment has been a complete disaster,” Leach continued. “Our neighbors continue to suffer, and contamination continues unchecked. We were promised an industry that would bring jobs and wealth to Pennsylvania, but instead, it’s brought cancer and suffering. I applaud the serious, hard work of the Office of the Attorney General and the courage of people who testified despite years of being ignored.”
The grand jury investigation started in 2018, and their report outlines the testimony of more than 70 families impacted by the natural gas industry. Residents testified to a variety of harms, including things like water contamination, heavy truck traffic that would coat their homes in dust and noxious odors like that of gasoline and kerosene that would make residents sick. The grand jury noted in their report that DEP “did not take sufficient action in response to the fracking boom.”
Ultimately, the grand jury concluded that both the DOH and the DEP remains unprepared to regulate the industry and address the growing health impacts. They prioritized protecting the fracking industry and failed to protect the people of Pennsylvania. In their report, the grand jury says, “We had clear and convincing evidence that leads us to conclude that industry operations in Pennsylvania have made our children sick.”
The grand jury report also went on to say they, “conclude that government oversight of this activity was for many years poor, and has only more recently shown signs of improvement. As a result, officials often did not do enough to properly protect the health, safety and welfare of the thousands of Pennsylvania citizens who were affected by this industry.”
“Instead, we believe our government often ignored the costs to the environment and to the health and safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth, in a rush to reap the benefits of this industry,” they continued.
In order to become a constitutional amendment, this bill would have to pass two legislative sessions. After passing two legislative sessions, the proposed constitutional change must then pass an up-or-down vote by the public at the ballot box.
Senator Daylin Leach represents the 17th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Montgomery County and Delaware County. For more information, visit www.senatorleach.com/newsroom.