State legislators and Governor Corbett have been championing the development of Marcellus Shale since the recent discovery of large volumes of it in Pennsylvania. Repbulicans have been leading the charge on this issue, and rightfully so. The discovery is a potential game changer in terms of the Commonwealth’s economy and jobs.
Efforts to further the development of Marcellus Shale have been slowed for a host of reasons recently though. Many have argued, correctly, that there should be a uniform approach to devlopment of Marcellus Shale throughout the state. This common ground was to include things like safety, taxes and revenue generated from it, and environmental concerns. This argument was made largely to counter calls from municpalities and counties in parts of the state that asked for special treatment because they would be disproportionately affected by the development.
As the newly passed state budget is analyzed, new details are emerging that suggest Montgomery County, and its neighbor Bucks County, managed to obtain a ban on all Marcellus Shale drilling in their counties. Not only did Montgomery County get special treatment, the “ban” language was snuck into the budget at the eleventh hour. State Senator Charles McIlhinney of Bucks County championed the moratorium.
Republicans should know better. Aside from the fact that this is in complete contradiction to how they sold the new laws relating to Marcellus Shale, the intellectually dishonest manner in which they justified the moratorium and the willingness to do it under the cover of darkness are shameful. The ban prohibits the issuance of drilling permits in Montgomery County until 2018 or the completion of an impact study; but there is no indication that they know any more about the impact drilling will cause in other parts of the Commonwealth where there is no ban.
Montgomery County should be treated like every other county in the Commonwealth. It should bear the risk of developing Marcellus Shale AND it should get the benefits of the jobs it would create locally. Besides all that, it is the right thing to do. If we are going to ask other municipalities and counties to develop Marcellus Shale deposits for the good of the state, we should be willing to do the same.