It's been an eventful week in the Land of the Fracked.
Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection suspended a key provision of the air pollution controls for Marcellus shale drilling. That provision would have required the emissions from all the wells in an area to be regulated collectively instead of individually and would have meant stricter requirements. This change comes hard on the heels of Governor Corbett's lifting the ban on new drilling on state-owned land. That ban, ordered by former Governor Ed Rendell, had been in place for about 4 months.
The New York Times gave a huge boost to drilling opponents with the publication of a 3-part series on Marcellus shale drilling by reporter Ian Urbina. Among the revelations: the fracking waste water being "treated" at sewage treatment plants and then released into rivers just a short distance upstream from drinking water intakes. In the cases where test results could be located (documents also posted on the Times' website), the waste water contained very high levels of heavy metals and the radioactive element radium. One of these potentially contaminated drinking water supplies is in the town where I work. Senator Bob Casey and others have called for immediate water testing and water companies say they're going to comply.
In Arkansas where swarms of earthquakes have raised questions about their relationship to injection wells used for waste water disposal, the disposal of waste water in two of those injection wells has been halted, at least temporarily.
Is the tale of woe that is fracking starting to take a turn toward tighter regulation in light of greater public awareness? I earnestly hope so, but only time will tell.