Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Luzerne County Zoning Board Approves 5 New Frack Wells

Everybody knew, going in, that Encana would triumph but we showed up anyway.

It was an overflow crowd mostly because the hearing was held in a relatively small room.  At least half of the people present were put outside the door in rows of metal folding chairs.  We couldn't hear anything.  And even after sunshine law concerns (by the board solicitor's own admission) prompted officials to usher us in, it bothered me that arrangements had been made to keep us out.

Encana had a slide show.  The presentation was made by a chirpy girl in too cute little sun dress.   She showed us photos of model well pads surrounded by wide expanses of flawless emerald green grass and bulleted lists of agencies who had rubber stamped the drilling so far.  The information provided was designed to make the wells appear safe and attractive.

A few members of the public were prepared.  They had read the zoning laws and had come up very valid objections.  Others talked about safety even though it was not on the table.

The county zoning board, told us that they had no real power in regard to gas and oil extraction.  They can deal with issues such as dust, odor, and noise, they maintained, but just about everything else is somebody else's responsibility.  I won't say that our officials don't care because I'm pretty sure that a few of them do.  But how deep does their commitment to the public trust run?

The county, state, and municipal response to every move the gas companies make is the same.  They can't stop it, they tell us - their power is restricted to little more than an increment.  But each increment takes us closer to looming disaster.  Each person who moves fracking forward acts against the people of Pennsylvania and the state as a whole.

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