EPA Hearings Draw Crowds of Fracking Opponents

Last week I attended an Environmental Protection Agency hearing on proposed new air pollution regulation for hydraulic fracturing and was overwhelmed by the number of citizens there to testify not only in support of the EPA ‘s proposed more stringent air pollution regulations for the hydraulic fracturing industry but also against the practice of hydraulic fracturing as a whole.

This hearing was one of three that the Environmental Protection Agency held across the country on the proposed air regulations and people from all across Pennsylvania traveled to Pittsburgh in order to let their views and experiences be known. There were representatives from variety of environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, Penn Environment, the Sierra Student Coalition, and the Pittsburgh Student Environmental Coalition as well as numerous private citizens and members of grassroots environmental groups.

Overall the message from citizens and environmental groups was clear: regulation on the hydraulic fracturing industry is necessary and long overdue and they have already destroyed too much of our air, water, and land in Pennsylvania.

Hydraulic fracturing has long been an issue in Pennsylvania politics, but these hearings indicate that it has become an issue of national concern, and it’s clear that Pennsylvanians and environmental advocates nationwide want some action taken to stop the ecological devastation that hydraulic fracturing is causing in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania.

While Governor Tom Corbett and his administration have largely been in support of limiting regulation and taxation on the hydraulic fracturing industry (no surprise really, given that they bankrolled his campaign), the federal government and the Environmental Protection Agency seem to be more open to hearing the concerns of citizens and environmentalists.

And if the hearing that I attended was any indication, communities are sick and tired of the frackers and want them out of Pennsylvania and are going to pressure the Environmental Protection Agency and President Obama to take a strong stance on the issue.

From the moment the hearings began on the morning of September 27th until they ended at eight pm that evening, there was a steady stream of anti fracking sentiment interspersed with a few industry supporters (mostly employees of the oil and gas companies).  Testifiers ran the gamut from Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields and students from the University of Pittsburgh to residents of the economically and ecologically devastated Marcellus Shale region who have been living with the consequences of hydraulic fracturing every day.

It was a diverse group with a variety of stories about why they are against hydraulic fracturing and in favor of stricter air pollution regulation: about wells destroyed, families breathing in gas fumes, communities who have seen their air quality decline since the arrival of the oil and gas companies, and how the gas companies continue to claim that they are not to blame for all these public health concerns.

While the testimony from citizens was by no means uniform everyone testifying had one thing in common: they care about the future of Pennsylvania’s land and environment and are concerned about how the oil and gas companies is destroying the state’s natural beauty.

So while the EPA ‘s proposed air regulations are a step in the right direction, it’s about time the government listened to citizens and held the hydraulic fracturing industry accountable for their actions and the devastation they have caused communities.

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