§ Penna. Grand Jury Finds State Failed To Protect Residents During Drilling & Fracking Operations

by admin on July 12, 2020

Penna. Attorney General holding contaminated drinking water

Report calls for new laws to protect water supplies and manage air pollution

NEWS RELEASE from Penna. Attorney General — Thursday, June 25, 2020

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the findings and recommendations of Pennsylvania’s 43rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury report on the unconventional oil and gas industry. The Grand Jury’s two-year investigation uncovered systematic failure by government agencies in overseeing the fracking industry and fulfilling their responsibility to protect Pennsylvanians from the inherent risks of industry operations.

In addition to exposing failures on the part of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health, the Grand Jury made eight recommendations to create a more comprehensive legal framework that would better protect Pennsylvanians from the realities of industry operations.

“This report is about preventing the failures of our past from continuing into our future,” said Attorney General Shapiro in a press conference Thursday. “It’s about the big fights we must take on to protect Pennsylvanians — to ensure that their voices are not drowned out by those with bigger wallets and better connections. There remains a profound gap between our Constitutional mandate for clean air and pure water, and the realities facing Pennsylvanians who live in the shadow of fracking giants and their investors.”

This report follows the findings of the Grand Jury’s previous criminal presentments against two fracking companies — Range Resources and Cabot Oil & Gas — for their repeated and systematic violation of Pennsylvania environmental law. Range has since pleaded no contest to environmental crimes committed in Washington County, Pennsylvania. These cases were referred to the Office of Attorney General by local District Attorneys.

The report details the initial failure of the Department of Environmental Protection to adequately respond to the unconventional oil and gas industry and also points out that missteps continue to this day. These failures harmed Pennsylvanians living in close proximity to this industry. The grand jurors found that, while the Wolf administration has forced through some improvements at the agency, there continues to be room for meaningful change to occur.

The Grand Jury also heard from many Pennsylvania residents who suffered severe health consequences and lived near unconventional drilling sites. Residents testified that their well water was “black sludge,” “cloudy,” and using the contaminated water caused “problems with breathing whenever we were in the shower.”

Pennsylvania farmers testified that their livestock, which used the same water source as the families, would sometimes become violently ill, infertile, and die. Other residents spoke of problems with their air, which became so polluted from stray gas or other chemicals used during industry operations that they could not leave windows open or let their children play outside. Parents testified that their children would repeatedly wake up at night with severe nosebleeds caused by increased levels of gas in the air around the fracking sites.

In response to the failures of government oversight and in order to ensure that the regulators have the tools necessary to hold this industry accountable, the Grand Jury’s report details eight recommendations. These recommendations would better protect Pennsylvanians from the risk posed by fracking operations and confront the culture of inadequate oversight in the unconventional gas industry and government agencies that oversee their activities:

1. Expanding no-drill zones in Pennsylvania from the required 500 feet to 2,500 feet;

2. Requiring fracking companies to publicly disclose all chemicals used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing before they are used on-site;

3. Requiring the regulation of gathering lines, used to transport unconventional gas hundreds of miles;

4. Adding up all sources of air pollution in a given area to accurately assess air quality;

5. Requiring safer transport of the contaminated waste created from fracking sites;

6. Conducting a comprehensive health response to the effects of living near unconventional drilling sites;

7. Limiting the ability of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection employees to be employed in the private sector immediately after leaving the Department;

8. Allowing the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General original criminal jurisdiction over unconventional oil and gas companies.

“Our government has a duty to set, and enforce, ground rules that protect public health and safety. We are the referees, we are here to prevent big corporations and the powerful industries from harming our communities or running over the rights of citizens,” said Attorney General Shapiro.”

“When it comes to fracking, Pennsylvania failed. Now it’s time to face the facts, and do what we can to protect the people of this commonwealth by encouraging the Department of Environmental Protection to partner with us and by passing the Grand Jurors’ common-sense reforms.”


AG Shapiro calls for “cleanup” at the Department of Environmental Protection in Pennsylvania

LIVESTREAM AVAILABLE HERE: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/stream

A copy of the report can be found here.

Fact sheets and press kit available here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

JB July 12, 2020 at 6:39 am

Better, but not enough!

What happens to those affected? Who pays for health and even lives lost? How do you put a price on that? On the poisoning of the environment, people, animals? Can you safely transport toxic contaminated waste? Maybe, but I doubt. And even if that was possible: where do you dispose of it, and how? There certainly is no safe way to do that!

Anyone and everyone who ever works, worked or will work for any company in this industry, or for any regulatory agency or related, should be perpetualy barred from working for the “other side” — it’s called conflict of interest!

On both sides people should be accountable for cheating, cutting corners or otherwise unduly obtaining permits that they shouldn’t.

Fines should be so heavy as to discourage the industry and their sicarios from obtaining them, or even putting them out of business and lock them behind bars!

All this is too complicated and time consuming? The solution is really simple: Fracking needs to stop! It needs to be banned!
End of story!

Until then, better will never be good enough!
The ACP is dead! It’s time to shut down the MVP, etc.


Ron Slabe July 12, 2020 at 10:17 am

Fracking found harmful, but what next?

Letter to Pittsburgh Post Gazette, July 10, 2020

The evidence is in and overwhelming. Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s grand jury found fracking in Pennsylvania to indisputably harm the health and well-being of the people.

For years, we fracking opponents have presented evidence from respected studies showing how unconventional gas drilling (fracking) harmed the public with cancer-causing chemicals, air pollutants and radioactive contamination. Even the Pennsylvania Supreme Court once issued a similar indictment when it predicted fracking would have a detrimental effect on “the people, their children, and future generations.”

But the corrupt politics of Pennsylvania, the salivating greed of politicians and private landowners, and the unconscionable judicial decisions of judges have made Pennsylvania a mecca for poisoning our environment with residents used as guinea pigs by a gas industry and a complicit Department of Environmental Protection.

For certain, the top management of the DEP should resign or be fired since the grand jury clearly shows how the polluting industry and corrupt DEP have been working hand-in-glove to shaft the people. Moreover, an investigation should begin into the justice system’s ties to the gas industry, for many judges have no idea of what their sworn duty is in protecting the environment or upholding the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Whether the grand jury’s recommendations will ever be implemented will depend on whether the people demand through the elective process a change in those elected to the legislative, executive and judicial branches of our government. The people in the end will decide. They now have the facts, but do they have the will?

RON SLABE, Oakmont, PA
Published July 10, 2020



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