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Dear Legislature: Get All the Facts Before Marcellus Shale Vote

Robinson Township Manager Richard A. Ward sent this letter to members of the state House and Senate as they begin a new legislative term today.

Honorable Representatives and Senators,

As you head back into session, there are many issues that will compete for your attention. One of the most important decisions you will make in the coming weeks and months will be on House Bill 1950. This piece of legislation will set the standard for gas and oil operations in the Commonwealth for the next generation. 

How you vote on this issue will impact the lives of every Pennsylvanian, our children, and our children’s children. To say that this is one of the most important votes you will ever make is an understatement. I bring this issue to your attention because there are many pieces of the gas an oil puzzle competing for your attention, your support and your vote. 

While each group has its own reasons for asking you to vote a certain way, I think it is important for you to have ALL the facts—not just those facts touted by the industry, not just the facts touted by the activists, but the facts about what is going on in municipalities all across Pennsylvania. In municipalities across our Commonwealth, local leaders are working hard to ensure that the health, safety, and welfare of our residents are protected while balancing the needs of the industry as they expand operations throughout Pennsylvania. 

This is no easy task.

The gas/oil industry would have you believe it cannot operate without a standardized set of rules. The industry would have you believe that it is providing endless jobs for Pennsylvanians and that the economic impact is going to be a boom for a cash-strapped state. The industry argues that it is hampered by having to deal with individual municipalities. 

The industry believes it is eco-friendly and causes no health risks to Pennsylvanians. So, it has asked you to step in and create one set of rules, taking the ability of municipalities to regulate them throughout the state away. This is a mistake of colossal proportions.

The industry has made billions of dollars in Pennsylvania since it came here.  It has successfully expanded across the state, and has grand plans to expand even further. It has benefitted from the gas-rich shale below our surface. 

Ironically, it has done this with local zoning and regulations in place. Local municipalities are the watchdogs where the state cannot always see. We are the “boots on the ground” keeping the industry honest. Believe it or not, they are not all honest. 

We at the municipal level understand this. Dozens of municipalities across the Commonwealth have issued resolutions in opposition to , as we believe this bill will take away our ability to perform our mandated duty to protect our residents. 

We ask you take a moment and look at the website we created to discuss our concerns: http://pajustpowers.org/.   

The information contained there is an eye opener. There are links to the video of the . All representatives and senators were invited, but because you were in Harrisburg doing the state’s business, you were unable to attend.

We only ask that before you make a decision and cast a vote on an issue that will affect us for decades to come, please take the time to get all the facts. The video covers all the details you could possibly want on why HB 1950 is a bad idea as it is now written. 

Watch the videos and then sit down to write sensible legislation to address the industry. But include those who will be most affected by it—municipal leaders from across the Marcellus Shale play are willing to sit with you to provide the information we believe you need to make this legislation practical, effective, and fair. 

To date, we haven’t been invited to the table. It’s been one-sided and that can only lead to lopsided legislation that we will all have to live with. It isn’t fair to the residents and voters who put their trust in us and in you to provide a safe, healthy environment in which to raise our children, build our homes, and make our livelihoods.  We all owe it to those who believed in us to protect them to do so. HB 1950, as it is now written doesn’t do that.  Let us help you make it right.

Thank you for your time. Please contact me if you have questions or need further information.

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