High gas prices and foreign energy dependence spark renewed interest in expanding drilling in Pennsylvania – CBS Philly

SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — Pennsylvania is the second-largest exporter of natural gas nationwide. High gas prices and dependence on foreign energy have led to renewed interest in expanding drilling. The process is fraught with pitfalls, much of which falls within party lines.

These are rural roads in Susquehanna County. Nearly three hours north of Philadelphia is Montrose, and it’s gas country.

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A dozen years ago, a rush to drill intensified, here and in western Pennsylvania. Vast deposits of gas are underfoot and can only be accessed through a process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Today, with gasoline prices above $4 a gallon, there are growing calls to revive the industry, increase production and break the country’s dependence on foreign energy. .

Susannah Major’s farm sits on dozens of acres on the outskirts of town.

Right next to it, there is work on a new well.

“I called it Emerald City,” Major said.

Major has no well of her own. Not yet, at least.

The place is peaceful. Birds visit the many feeders, the quiet of the afternoon interrupted by a babbling brook.

Major tells Eyewitness News that the natural gas industry and the drilling industry have been good for the county. Pennsylvania is second only to Texas in terms of production.

“As far as testing, caution and caution, road repairs and possible safety,” Major said.

Major says she has no worries.

“I think I’m realistic,” she said, “and I know it’s going to happen. They do a good job and they are as careful as possible. »

“It’s a great place to live, you have all four seasons,” County Commissioner Alan Hall said.

In town, Eyewitness News caught up with Hall.

“It’s the old prison. We don’t use it,” Hall said. “Nobody’s in there.”

A Republican in office for 12 years, Hall wants more production from Pennsylvania.

“We have to reactivate all of this,” Hall said. “We can become energy efficient ourselves.”

He salutes the $2 billion the drillers have returned.

“Show me another industry that gave $2 billion to the state of Pennsylvania,” Hall said.

Would he say they’ve been a good neighbor?

“I would say they’ve been a great neighbor,” Hall said.

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The story of Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania has been a complicated and winding road.

Some believe that industry has done so much harm to the environment that they should be shown the door.

“Pennsylvania has done a terrible job regulating fracking,” Scott Canon said. “Whether it’s taxes, health studies or water contamination.

Canon reports hundreds of complaints about contaminated well water.

State regulators have had a difficult relationship with drillers.

Canon, a long-time drilling critic, largely blames Harrisburg lawmakers, saying people like him have been forced to police the giant industry.

“We are the ones who ring the bells when something is wrong,” Canon said.

This is a difficult assessment for lawmakers?

“It is, they do a horrible job,” he said.

Criminal charges have been filed against a drilling company accused of violating environmental laws.

Guys like Canon argue that plans to speed up drilling should be shut down.

“It bothers me how dishonest people are about this situation,” Canon said. “I see people suffering from it. They lose the value of their properties, they get sick of it. And you want to go to the top of the hill and shout. … No one is listening.

Dozens of environmental groups have condemned the continued reliance on fossil fuels.

But Dave Callahan, chairman of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, says Pennsylvania gas should be exported to reduce the world’s dependence on Russian oil.

“We have things we can do in this state, it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican, we’re all Americans on this issue,” Callahan said. “We could increase production.”

There is a long history of controversy on both sides in these regions.

Time has done little to ease the tension.

Back on the Major family estate, she says she doesn’t mind.

“It’s not,” Major said. “It’s just temporary.”

A temporary interruption…

Canon, however, thinks there’s more to it.

“The Legislature was unprepared for this and has been catching up ever since,” he said.

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And so the debate rages on.

Edward N. Arrington