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.

Carbon-Intensive Keystone

PA IPL Board member Joy Bergey has been researching the Keystone Pipeline.  While an oil pipeline from the tar sands of western Canada to Texas seems very far from Pennsylvania, the impacts reach beyond the extraction and transport of the fuels.  This fuel is very carbon intensive.

Below is Joy’s list of reasons (initially written to appear in a non-faith-oriented context, as was the contact information) that this pipeline is ill-advised.  Let’s use this as a call to use only what we must, and to do so efficiently.  Let us also use this as a starting point for thinking about the extraction and transportation of fossil fuels generally.  How we might create capacity based on fuels that have a much, much smaller lifetime impact on God’s earth, peoples, and creatures?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Keystone XL pipeline is a really bad idea whose time should never come. Here’s why:

  1. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry toxic tar sands oil 1,700 miles from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico to be refined and exported.
  2. Tar sands are the most carbon-intensive source of oil on the planet — just the production creates three times as much global warming pollution as conventional crude oil.
  3. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the pipeline would add 27 million metric tons of heat-trapping CO2 annually.
  4. The pipeline would do little for our energy security or our domestic economy. Its main purpose is to make this oil available for export.
  5. The refineries on the Gulf Coast at the end of the pipeline are in Foreign Trade Zones where oil can be exported to international buyers without paying U.S. taxes.
  6. The pipeline threatens America’s water resources. Tar sands oil is more acidic and corrosive than conventional oil and is transported under higher pressure, posing a far greater risk of blowouts in the pipeline.
  7. Over the last five years, pipelines in Midwestern states with the longest history of moving Canadian tar sands have spilled three times as much crude per mile as the national average.
  8. These tar sands pipelines are not environmentally safe. The Keystone I pipeline was predicted to spill 1.4 times per decade, yet spilled 14 times in just the first year of operation.
  9. In summer 2011, an older tar sands pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River — at $725 million, the most expensive U.S. pipeline accident on record.
  10. We cannot ensure the security of the nearly 2,000 mile pipeline, making it a target for terrorists.
The facts are clear: This pipeline is bad for our environment, our economy, and our security.

We need clean energy, used wisely and without wasting it, to build our 21st economy.

The Senate could vote on the Keystone pipeline soon!
Call our senators right now:
Sen. Casey (202) 224-6324
Sen. Toomey (202) 224-4254

Tell them to “Vote No on the Keystone pipeline.”

It’s fine to leave a message on voice mail; just be sure to include your name, municipality and zip code. Thank you.

Help Keep the EPA Working to Protect our Environment

On January 2, 2011, for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency began to regulate carbon emissions, having declared that they form a significant danger to human health and well-being. In the absence of comprehensive legislation on climate change, this is the only recourse the administration has for regulating carbon and thereby fulfilling our obligations under international law.

Now Congress wants to force the EPA to stop, and is even taking aim at the Clean Air Act, one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever. We need to let our senators know that climate change is a moral issue, and that we have an obligation to ourselves, our neighbors and to future generations to reduce carbon pollution. We just completed a successful letter-writing campaign, but we still urge you to call the senators (or your representative) and tell them to protect public health and defend the Clean Air Act.

Senator Casey’s phone numbers:
Washington, Toll Free: (866) 802-2833
Harrisburg, (717) 231-7540
Philadelphia, (215) 405-9660
Pittsburgh, (412) 803-7370
Scranton, (570) 941-0930
Erie, (814) 874-5080
Bellefonte, (814) 357-0314
Allentown, (610) 782-9470

Senator Toomey’s phone numbers:
Washington, (202) 224-4254
Harrisburg, (717) 782-3951
Philadelphia, (215) 597-7200
Erie, (814) 453-3010
Allentown, (610) 434-1444

Calling takes only a minute (you simply need to give your name, hometown, and a very brief message), but it makes a big difference.



Energy Efficiency Resource Standards

Advocate for Efficiency!

We wrapped up our mini-campaign to educate individuals and congregations and to push our senators to act in September, 2010. The project had three parts:

First, we held events at congregations in Scranton, Meadville, Pittsburgh, State College and Harrisburg in July and August to talk about PA IPL and to promote Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS).

Second, together with our friends at PennFuture, we developed a postcard, urging our senators to include EERS in legislation; we have already collected over 400 of these postcards!

Third, we took our postcards and our message to the Senators themselves. We already met with Senatorial staffs in Bellefonte and Philadelphia to tell them about our campaign, and at the end of August Joy Bergey took her godchildren to Washington D.C. to present these cards to Senators Casey and Specter.

What are Efficiency Resource Standards?

A complicated name, but a simple idea: national standards for energy efficiency, just like we have in Pennsylvania (Act 129). Like mileage requirements for cars, industry actually wants national standards instead of various state standards, and we want them because waste and inefficiency make up a huge part of our carbon footprint. For commercial buildings, like most houses of worship, the EPA estimates that 30% of the energy is wasted. Power plants also waste a tremendous amount of energy.

As in Pennsylvania, national EERS can be combined with support for more renewable energy as part of a comprehensive approach to reduce our carbon footprint.