The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recently collected almost $200 million in fees from companies engaged in “fracking” across the state. The industry lobby simultaneously congratulated itself for its benevolence and complained about a burden that was “staggering by any measure.” When it became law in February, Pennsylvania’s Act 13 was touted for bringing order to a chaotic field in a state where fracking was out of control and the energy companies resisted paying any fees for their infant industry. (For the record, Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest drillers, has a market capitalization of $13 trillion.)
Of course, if Act 13 were that simple, it wouldn’t need to be 174 pages long, passed with only 2 Democratic votes, and had parts of it already declared unconstitutional.
For despite the industry yelping, its fingerprints are all over this bill, as Sandra Steingraber noted in a recent Orion article.
It simply dispensed with zoning, forbidding municipalities to ban drilling even in residential areas, a provision the Commonwealth Court struck down by a 4-3 vote (with Robert Simpson of Voter ID fame a dissenter).
It requires health professionals to justify their medical need to know and to sign a confidentiality agreement before getting access to a list of trade-secret chemicals to help them treat patients.
And it exempts such chemicals from Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know law.
In the name of economic progress, Act 13 runs roughshod over communities and puts corporate profits before public health.
Since 2000, nine Pennsylvania legislators have been convicted of crimes against the public trust. The body appears to have many slow learners. Perhaps it’s something in the water.