Ãœber-environmental writer Elizabeth Royte recently fired up an article about the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission conducting some remarkably questionable sales to energy companies. To whit:
Gas companies in southwestern Pennsylvania are leasing portions of streams from Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission to build a 16.5-mile pipeline to move locally drilled gas to larger markets. Why is an agency that promotes sport fishing making it easier for gas companies to operate in and around waterways used for fishing? Because it’s $36 million short on cash to repair dams in danger of collapse (the dams are classified as high risk because they’re incapable of holding 50 percent of the maximum precipitation that a region could receive). The Fish Commission also plans to sell water to the gas companies for use in drilling operations. (Wait: aren’t surface waters in the public trustâ€”owned by the people? Maybe they’re selling groundwater – the story is unclear.) So far, about one-third of the commission’s waterwaysâ€”some 14,000 acres–are potential drilling sites.
It gets worse; not only will the pipeline cross a few bazillion streams and wetlands, but they’re going to let the industry police itself?
The pipeline will cross wetlands 71 times and streams 41 times. Kelly Swan, a spokesperson for Williams Production Appalachia, which is pursing a permit to drill under Donegal Lake, a popular trout-fishing spot in Donegal Township, among other sites, minimizes the potential for environmental damage: â€œCompany inspectors will be stationed along the pipeline daily to ensure that construction adheres to state DEP requirements.â€ Very reassuring: the company guards itself, under requirements set by a notoriously drill-friendly agency. (We’ve seen how well this worked with BP in the Gulf, ExxonMobil in Yellowstone, and so on.)
Royte is not a fisheries person, but she is a meticulous writer and researcher, and I wonder if any of the Undergrounders in Pennsylvania can offer any information or perspective?
See you at the pipeline, Tom Chandler.