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Editorial: Natural gas era unfolds in Pennsylvania without a cohesive strategy to make it sane and safe

When it comes to natural-gas drilling, where’s the leadership?

Looking back on the coal-mining era, given the perspective of time, it’s easy to wonder why our state and federal lawmakers failed us on so many levels.

In their zeal to take advantage of a new, abundant energy source, all but a few of our leaders largely turned their backs on our area and let it be mined — literally — for its resources. Health and other consequences be damned.

We wonder if future residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania will look back on how our leaders have handled natural-gas drilling at the dawn of the 21st century and ask themselves if history simply repeated itself.

We’re not opposed to all natural-gas drilling, but we are opposed to a lack of planning and oversight from state and federal agencies. In our state’s zeal to go after The Next Big Thing, it rushed into horizontal fracking and is only now beginning to learn about the consequences (good and bad).

In related news, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection changes rules for oil and gas sludge at landfills.

We’re not against natural gas as part of the energy mix, but we are against the collective silence of lawmakers. Aside from ongoing discussions about how much to tax the industry, there hasn’t been a sufficient examination of what this still-emerging energy boom will do to Pennsylvania (to help and to hurt it) and how this revolution should be conducted.

Why aren’t lawmakers, for instance, raising red flags as companies proceed with plans in this region to lay down a sprawling network of natural-gas pipelines, including some lines blueprinted to go through former mining areas that have a history of subsiding?

We’re pleased that natural-gas exploration has provided a much-needed boost to the region’s economy, but we’re disappointed that has happened because the majority of lawmakers eager for a win have rubber-stamped projects.

Today, American natural gas — as part of a larger portfolio of energy sources — can help to end our dependence on foreign oil. However, the fossil fuel found below Pennsylvania should be extracted only with proper oversight. And safety guidelines.

There simply are not enough regulators tasked with safeguarding our soil, water and air to guarantee that the current way of doing things is the safe way of doing things.

And so we are looking to U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey for leadership. We are looking to U.S. Reps. Matt Cartwright and Lou Barletta for leadership. We are looking to state lawmakers — Eddie Day Pashinski, Mike Carroll, Tarah Toohil, Aaron Kaufer, Karen Boback, Gerald Mullery, Frank Farina, Marty Flynn and Sid Michaels Kavulich — for leadership.

Decades later, we’re still battling back the stigma, not to mention the environmental and economic fallouts, of coal mining. Our hope is that we have learned our lesson that short-term greed cannot and should not come at the expense of long-term needs.

To our leaders, we ask you to do one thing here.

 

This article was from The Times Leader and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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