This Is What It Looks Like When An Industry Controls A State’s Poli...

I'm disgusted every day by PA politics. This is one way that extreme gerrymandering and political donations beggar Pennsylvanian schools and municipalities.

Six years ago, state Rep. Greg Vitali (D) made the first attempt to impose a tax on drillers sucking natural gas from Pennsylvania’s bedrock.

Lawmakers have tried at least 66 times since, to no avail.

This makes Pennsylvania the only major gas-producing state that doesn’t require oil and gas companies to pay a fee, or severance tax, on the amount of gas extracted ― 5 trillion cubic feet. The tax could raise $100 million this year alone to help plug the state’s $2.2 billion budget deficit.

 About 70 percent of voters in Pennsylvania support adding the tax.

In July, the elusive severance tax seemed within grasp. The state Senate passed a bipartisan spending bill that included a severance tax that would charge fracking companies about 2 cents per thousand cubic feet of gas.

But when the budget bill that included it came up for debate in the House of Representatives two weeks ago, the severance tax got cut ―...

Republican leaders had only consented to include the severance tax in the legislation in exchange for measures weakening the state Department of Environmental Protection.

One rule would have outsourced environmental permitting to a third-party panel staffed by businesspeople, including landscape architects. Another would have automatically approved all outstanding permit requests after a period of 30 to 45 days ― regardless of whether the request contained inaccurate information or violated other regulations. A third provision would put a seven-person committee appointed by Republican leadership in charge of setting rules on air quality and methane pollution from drilling sites.

But even a severance tax bill loaded with polluter giveaways couldn’t pass.

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Regulatory capture of PA government by fossil fuel interests damages your health.

Fracking in Pennsylvania is too close to residents for safety: Study

Regulations on how close fracking facilities can be to buildings and homes in Pennsylvania are too lax to adequately protect public health, according to a new study.

Currently, horizontally drilled well pads are required to be at least 500 feet away from the nearest occupied building in Pennsylvania. For natural gas compressor stations and processing plants, the minimum goes up to 750 feet, but those minimums can be waived by property owners, and some fracking facilities operate within 300 feet of occupied buildings in residential areas in the state.

Of the 18 experts the study consulted, 16 concluded that, in order to protect public health, the setback distance for a fracking facility, such as a well pad or compressor station, should be at least one-quarter mile (1,320 feet) from the nearest occupied building.

A number of studies have found that the closer someone lives to unconventional oil and gas facilities, the more likely they are to experience range of health issues including low birth weights, childhood cancers, asthma exacerbations, migraines and fatigue, and even depression.

The authors of the study noted that setback regulations should protect residents from risks like spills and explosions at the sites, but also from airborne emissions, which can include methane, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), all of which can cause short and long-term health issues ranging from respiratory and central nervous system issues to birth defects and increased cancer risk.

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