Humans often ask dogs to speak. SO, here we go: Pay close attention to what I’m saying about the last-minute move made on 30 June 2012 by PA’s Senator Chuck McIlhinney, R-10, in which he successfully attached to PA’s fiscal code (SB1263) a partial moratorium on shale gas development in PA’s Bucks and Montgomery Counties. Please take the time to read (and share) this important twist in the Marcellus mayhem.
To be brief: Even though Senator McIlhinney recently voted in favor of state-wide drilling, impact fees, and the dissolution of all counties’ local ordinances in PA that limit or ban hydraulic fracturing but who want impact fee monies under PA’s Act 13, McIlhinney has now led the provision that Bucks County and Montgomery County will be exempt from that very same Act (see text below).
Now, drilling will not occur in these two counties until the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources studies the geology of the South Newark Basin shale gas deposits under these counties. Also, a fiscal study must be completed regarding the impact of oil and gas development on the South Newark Basin. Importantly, this “development” refers to the unconventional slickwater hydraulic fracturing using long laterals and directional drilling known as fracking. (The moratorium would last until these studies are completed or until 2018, coinciding with the end of Corbett’s term should he be re-elected in 2014.)
Effectively, the rest of PA is an open-door for shale drilling, and no municipality may try to regulate it through local zoning if they want money from impact fees– but Bucks and Montgomery are afforded an exemption. This is a difficult situation for the antifrack movement, and no doubt it will test the solidarity of humans throughout PA. Some fracktivists are saying, “Drill everywhere or drill nowhere.” Others are saying, “Why begrudge me my safety?” Probably there are also some drilling advocates who value money more than safety saying, “Hey, why can’t Montgomery and Bucks make a buck off of this drilling, too?”
It is undeniable that exempting two out of 67 counties is “not fair.” It is also more than odd that the two exempt counties just happen to be home to many important politicians. For example, DEP Secretary Michael Krancer has ties to Montgomery County, and he makes his home in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Also, Lt. Governor James “Jim” Cawley calls Bucks County home. It is also undeniable that no comprehensive study was ever completed by PA’s DCNR on either the geology or the fiscal impact of unconventional shale gas development on the other 65 counties in the state.
The Act 13 exemption for only 2 counties is a case of something being both good and bad at the same time. Instances of cognitive dissonance such as this (cf. Leon Festinger, 1956) are very difficult for most humans to handle. Humans tend to want to see something as either “good” or “bad,” and they generally have a ruff time reconciling issues that have one foot on both sides of the same issue. Me, though? I’m a three-legged dog, so I tend to paw– toe, to you– the line.
Moreover, when humans’ beliefs are disconfirmed– i.e., when a fracktivist is confronted with the notion that a ban on fracking could be bad because it is unfair–one way around the dissonance is to try to get as many humans as possible to believe the same thing that you do.
This is probably why some fracktivists are upset about the exemption for Bucks and Montgomery Counties, and why PA’s House Rep (46th) Jesse White stated on his Facebook page: “Please contact everyone you know and put pressure to support efforts to remove this language from SB 1263. There’s no such thing as a ‘procedural vote’ on this- don’t be fooled!” (See Jesse’s tirade on dissonance on youtube, in which he opposes the moratorium because other counties would be jealous of it and because his own area would lose-out on money made from drilling in Bucks and Montgomery, here. “You let the public be informed,” he says, which is far from what happened in this case, ending with, “This, this is why people don’t trust this institution!”)
No one should try to overturn the exemption! Instead, they should hold two beliefs at the same time: (1) The moratorium is unfair, and (2) the moratorium is good. I can already hear you saying, “But this is impossible, Ada!” So, here I’ll clue you in on what Festinger said would resolve cognitive dissonance: You should add an additional belief. Namely, (3) The moratorium should serve as grounds to repeal Act 13 altogether. This clarifies the true issue at hand: It is Act 13 that is wholly bad.
Don’t fall for the “divide and conquer” strategy playing out before your very eyes. Don’t waste your time trying to repeal a moratorium (after all, you’re fighting for a ban on fracking, remember?). Instead, join together to get that same exemption for the other 65 counties in PA– and, for Dogs’ Sake, use McIlhinney’s own logic as fuel to repeal Act 13, not as a reason to fight with each other!
You’re not mad at the Vermont because it banned fracking, so why would you be mad at your neighboring counties?! Jealous, yes. Mad, no.
The dog has spoken.
**Text leading to effective Exemption from Act 13 for Bucks and Montgomery Counties**
SB1263, Page 16, Line 8, Section 1607-E:
Oil and Gas Operations in the South Newark Basin.
1607-E(A) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS.–THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY FINDS AND DECLARES THAT: 1607-E(A)(1) THE UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY ISSUED A REPORT IN JUNE OF 2012, ENTITLED “ASSESSMENT OF UNDISCOVERED OIL AND GAS RESOURCES OF THE EAST COAST MESOZOIC BASINS OF THE PIEDMONT, BLUE RIDGE THRUST BELT, ATLANTIC COASTAL PLAIN, AND NEW ENGLAND PROVINCES, 2011.” 1607-E(A)(2) THE REPORT UNDER PARAGRAPH (1) REVEALED A MEAN AVERAGE OF 876,000,000,000 CUBIC FEET OF TOTAL UNDISCOVERED NATURAL GAS RESOURCES IN THE SOUTH NEWARK BASIN ASSESSMENT UNIT. 1607-E(A)(3) THE UNIQUE GEOLOGIC AND GEOCHEMICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SOUTH NEWARK BASIN EVALUATED IN THE REPORT UNDER PARAGRAPH (1) HAVE NOT BEEN ADEQUATELY EVALUATED BY THE COMMONWEALTH AND ARE DESERVING OF FURTHER STUDY. 1607-E(B) WELL PERMITS.–THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION MAY NOT ISSUE WELL PERMITS UNDER 58 PA.C.S. CH. 32 (RELATING TO DEVELOPMENT) TO ENGAGE IN OIL AND GAS OPERATIONS WITHIN THE GEOGRAPHIC BOUNDARIES OF THE SOUTH NEWARK BASIN, AS DEFINED BY THE REPORT UNDER SUBSECTION (A), UNTIL ALL OF THE FOLLOWING HAS OCCURRED: 1607-E(B)(1) A STUDY IS COMPLETED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION AND NATURAL RESOURCES, IN CONSULTATION WITH THE MUNICIPALITIES LOCATED IN THE SOUTH NEWARK BASIN, EVALUATING THE PRACTICAL RESOURCE RECOVERY IMPLICATIONS OF THE REPORT UNDER SUBSECTION (A) AND THE FISCAL IMPACT OF OIL AND GAS OPERATIONS ON THE SOUTH NEWARK BASIN. 1607-E(B)(2) LEGISLATION AUTHORIZES THE GOVERNING BODY OF A COUNTY SITUATED IN WHOLE OR IN PART WITHIN THE SOUTH NEWARK BASIN THAT HAS SPUD A GAS WELL LOCATED WITHIN ITS BORDERS TO ELECT WHETHER TO IMPOSE A FEE ON GAS WELLS PURSUANT TO 5 PA.C.S. CH. 23 (RELATING TO UNCONVENTIONAL GAS WELL FEE). 1607-E(C) EXPIRATION.–THIS SECTION SHALL EXPIRE JANUARY 1, 2018.