The battle for compliance

Posted on December 30, 2011 

There have been innumerable reports from rural Pennsylvanian communities about the nuisances created by the industrial activity suddenly foisted upon them by the rush to extract gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.

Among all the complaints, increased truck traffic, air and noise pollution, and deteriorated roads have been the most frequent. In Centre County, gas companies paid to rebuild sections of state Route 144 in the Moshannon/Snow Shoe area after it crumbled under the stress of near-constant truck traffic, and both Route 144 and state Route 504 in Moshannon State Forest have been posted in order to recoup some of the future costs of repairing those roads.

In Cogan House Township, Lycoming County, a township official tired of waiting for road repairs promised by Range Resources, a driller that also has a presence in Centre County, that he felt the need to take a little more extreme action to get the company's attention.

According to The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News, township supervisor Daniel Roupp cut down six trees along a rural road in his township used by Range as a thoroughfare for its heavy vehicles traveling to and from drilling sites in the area. The action made the road impassible to the trucks -- a ruling that had already been made by the Department of Environmental Protection but ignored by the company.

The road has seen its traffic increase to ten times what it experienced before drilling started, Roupp said. Roupp said he took action because repairs promised by Range had never been performed.

The fact that Range Resources -- a major player in the Marcellus, and considered by many to be on the more responsible side of the spectrum of gas companies operating in Pennsylvania -- so openly flaunted rulings by the Department of Environmental Protection casts doubt upon drillers' promises to promptly fix the roads they're ruining, without the need for laws to require them to do so. It also throws into question ability of the DEP to enforce the rules it has in place, as well as the veracity of statements made by the drillers' public relations departments about how committed they are to operating in compliance with the law.

Here's to hoping Roupp doesn't have to cut any more trees down to get his road fixed.


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