Yesterday I was interviewed by The Patriot-News about concern that Marcellus Drilling is causing additional nitrogen, phosphorus or sediment loading of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Simply put, there is no evidence that preparing well sites for drilling is even a minor impact to the Bay, while there is massive evidence about what pollution sources that are really endangering the Bay. I have read that evidence.
We all need to get a grip. Marcellus drilling is not the cause of every environmental problem or every bit of increasingly good economic news in Pennsylvania. The Marcellus is big and important, but too many are losing perspective about its real impacts and benefits. To some the Marcellus is imagined to be the root of all good or all evil.
In December 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection negotiated with the EPA Pennsylvania's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to meet a federal court requirement to stop polluting the bay with so much nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment that the Bay and it's watershed are severely impaired.
The TMDL has numerous provisions that will reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution over the next 15 years to the levels that will restore the Bay. Focusing on implementing that TMDL should be the priority. Cleaning our local Bay watershed waters is a legal and moral imperative.
The fate of the Bay rests on implementing the TMDL and will not even be marginally impacted by the Marcellus drilling. Getting the Marcellus done right also must be a top priority and making sure land preparation rules are followed is important no matter where the drilling is done.
When Marcellus drilling sites are prepared, whether they be in the Bay watershed or not, and most are not, the strong rules concerning erosion and sediment controls must be followed, and inspectors must be allowed to do their jobs, including making the initial decision about the issuance of a notice of violation.
But the Marcellus is not the root of all good or all evil and what happens with it will not save or impact the Chesapeake Bay watershed.