A coalition of environmental and community groups, as well as state Sen. Jim Ferlo gathered in the state Capitol at noon Tuesday to call on state lawmakers to revoke Act 13—the state's new Marcellus Shale drilling law—and to support newly written legislation that would impose a statewide gas-drilling permit moratorium.
Ferlo is a Democrat serving parts of Allegheny, Armstrong and Westmoreland counties. The other groups attending included the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Berks Gas Truth and Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
The moratorium would be in place while a study commission "determines the wide range of impacts caused by hydraulic fracturing," Ferlo's office indicated in a media advisory.
Those in attendance held signs reading, "Don't be frackin' crazy" and "Get the frack out of my water."
Organizers also unveiled a huge banner they called the "scroll of shame"—one that listed the names of legislators who voted for the Act 13 legislation, including state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg.
“Since the beginnings of the now-booming natural gas industry here in Pennsylvania, I have been calling for a more cautious process for allowing hydraulic fracturing into our Commonwealth," Ferlo said in a statement. "We need substantial reform to Act 13 which was the Legislature’s weak attempt at providing oversight of oil and gas drillers, and we need to continue our fight for a drilling moratorium in order to provide a qualified and professional group of unbiased citizens the opportunity to make recommendations on the statutory and regulatory framework necessary to protect our Commonwealth.”
In addition to the focus on the loss of local zoning rights, speakers at the press conference spoke out against gag orders on physicians, and the sums of political money spent by the natural gas industry.
The group urged the public to keep legislators accountable for their votes on the issue.
Ferlo continued: “I am calling for a moratorium on drilling permits statewide. As the number of driller infractions builds and we see the disturbing health impacts of the industry on our residents we need to take a step back and assess where we’ve been and where we are going. The moratorium will last until January 1, 2018 while a study commission determines the best methods for
allowing drilling while protecting our public health and the environment. The study commission will release its report by January 1, 2017; giving the legislature and state agencies a full year to adopt the recommendations and as best possible mitigate the impacts the industry has on our state."
The bill is in draft form, and will be introduced in the near future, according to Ferlo's office.
The senator's complete remarks from Tuesday’s press conference can be found on his website here.