Marcellus Shale bill HB 1950

It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Not, however, if that step is mostly in the wrong direction.  That is the case with the recent bill passed by the Pennsylvania House and Senate on Marcellus Shale drilling

A comparison to the Principles for Considering Drilling in the Marcellus Shale: an Ethical Analysis  authored by PA IPL shows how inadequate this legislative response is.  Some principles it only begins to address.  For example, instead of ensuring that overall environmental and health impacts are sharply reduced (principle 2),  this bill provides only minimal environmental protections.  Some principles it fails to address at all.  For example, this bill does absolutely nothing to move Pennsylvania toward a sustainable energy future (principle 1).  And in one case, this bill is a step backwards.  Principle 3 notes that drilling has already set neighbor against neighbor, and has done little to create sustainable economic development.  By levying the lowest fees of any state, and especially by placing the burden of levying those fees on counties, this bill will encourage the very “race to the bottom” that our principles warned of.  Drilling companies will be able to threaten to leave any counties that decide to levy fees and take their business to neighboring counties.  The disputes we have already seen may very well be exacerbated by this legislation.

We are heartened that, despite pressure both from the Governor and from those profiting from drilling, there was significant, bipartisan opposition to this bill.  We hope that future sessions of our state legislature will learn from this inadequate “solution” and draft legislation that will protect our present and help move us to a better future.

We hope that members of PA IPL and other Pennsylvanians will continue to engage in creative and constructive dialogue about these issues. 


  • If you haven’t read  Principles for Considering Drilling in the Marcellus Shale: an Ethical Analysis, we encourage you to do so.  It is a framework for thinking about the moral and ethical principles involved in the decisions we and our lawmakers must make.  Each section begins with a quote from a sacred text.  We invite individuals (both lay people and clergy) to join us by signing on to the document.  You may do so via email.  
  • State Impact PA is a collaboration of WITF, WHYY, and NPR covering “fis­cal and envi­ron­men­tal impact of Pennsylvania’s boom­ing energy econ­omy, with a focus on Mar­cel­lus Shale drilling.”  It links to newspaper articles all over the state as well as to reports on the 3 radio stations.
  • HB 1950, now Act 13.  The bill is written in legislative language, and is 174 pages long, so you may wish to refer to a more digested version, or ask your local legislator for help understanding some of the provisions. 
  • Here is a summary just of the bill’s provisions for local zoning from the Centre Daily Times.   A community forum for discussing the shale fee has been set in Centre County.  Look for opportunities for public discussion as well as local experiences and concerns in your local paper.
  • A free Public Issues Forum (cosponsored by State College Area School District Community Education,  the Schlow Centre Region Library, and the Centre Daily Times) will be held at CPI on April 14.