The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) has announced its nine key priorities to help improve county government and the livelihood of constituents in the Commonwealth. Shale gas impacts were among the listed priorities.
Shale gas exploration and development, according to the Penn State Extension, represents significant employment and economic opportunities, local energy production and community facelifts, as well as transportation, infrastructure, social, environmental and safety issues.
Act 13 of 2012 addresses environmental, permitting and some pipeline issues, and includes an impact fee that returns revenues from drilling back to local governments and to a number of state programs and initiatives relating to the industry. The impact fees help counties, so that residents don’t need to shoulder the responsibility for costs associated with increased use of county services.
Counties continue to work on several other key issues to address impacts from shale gas drilling. Safety and planning for gathering pipelines is becoming a more critical concern, as current methods of deployment affect a community’s ability to engage in effective long-term land use and development planning, according to the Penn State Extension.
Counties support discussions with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to include conservation districts in the erosion and sedimentation permit review process for oil and gas operations again. Restoring conservation districts to this permitting and monitoring role would provide important local perspective and strong local geologic and topographic knowledge to the consideration of these operations.
Counties also continue to monitor impacts of shale gas drilling on local water quality, and with many engaging in efforts such as stream monitoring, developing source water protection plans and providing educational forums.
More recently, an increase in the number of proposed injection well permit applications has led to a particular focus on their impacts. The oil and gas industry uses injection wells to dispose of waste water, which can have a high saline content, chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive material, deep underground into porous rock formations, according to the Penn State Extension.
While permitting, inspections and enforcement of injection wells is a federal responsibility through the Environmental Protection Agency under the Underground Injection Control Program rather than a state responsibility through the DEP, counties want to ensure that these wells are well-regulated and that appropriate public input goes into the permitting process.
There has been growing interest in using compressed natural gas (CNG) both as a source for vehicle fuel and for residential and commercial heating. Counties recognize the concurrent potential for fleet conversions and build out of CNG lines, and look to be an active partner in this development.
- Other county government priorities are:
- Human Services Funding and Further System Reform
- Assessment Reform
- Funding and Modernization Solutions for Transportation Infrastructure
- Maintaining and Improving 911 Services
- Inmates with Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Issues
- Prevailing Wage Reform
- Restoration of County Recycling Fee
- County Veterans’ Director Accreditation
Additional information regarding the CCAP’s priorities can be found here.