Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

Have we learned from the past? 
Early problems from the Marcellus Gas Drilling

Editorial by K. Davis through PaForestCoalition.org

I am a hunter, angler, and conservationist. We all work hard for our money, and we spend it wisely. We wisely harvest our game and fish, and in doing so, hunters alone contribute 214 million dollars in taxes to the state’s coffers each year. We wisely spend our vacations and our money hunting and fishing; all the while supporting local economies by spending billions of dollars a year in some of the most rural areas of the state.

We, the hunters and anglers of Pennsylvania, demand a legislature that spends wisely. We want “wise use” of our hunting and angling dollars and demand the legislature live wisely within their means.

We want — No; we DEMAND that our resources be used wisely. The Senate’s plan to force DCNR to open over 200,000 additional acres of our forests — mostly in the “PA Wilds” area — to help balance a budget for two years is not “wise use” of our natural resources.

The PA Wilds area contains a vast number of our “Exceptional value” and “high quality” streams.

These streams support native trout and several of our Threatened & Endangered species. These streams are the very ones that protect our drinking waters.

A wiser alternative to transforming our State Forests into an industrial complex, is passage of a natural gas severance tax. Almost every gas-producing state except Pennsylvania has a severance tax. A severance tax will not slow the Marcellus drilling; it won’t affect the price of our heating (that’s all supply & demand), yet some of our legislators have listened to the lobbyists and are afraid of hurting the “infant gas industry”.

The Disaster Has Begun — One Example

More than 30 miles of a stream known as “Dunkard Creek” in Greene County Pennsylvania has experienced a total aquatic life kill. The suspected pollutants are coal bed methane and Marcellus well frack water from Marcellus Formation gas drilling.

So far, over 10,000 fish and 169 species of other organisms have been eradicated from Dunkard Creek. It has become as salty as sea water.

I watched in horror as the mudpuppies (the host species of the endangered salamander mussels) crawled to shore to die a miserable death through fresh air suffocation. I imagine it was much less painless a death than to die in the salty, chloride-filled water that had become its grave.

Dunkard Creek had been an Exceptional Value warm water fishery and was one of the few musky fisheries in the South West. All that is gone.

We can expect to see terrestrial species begin to suffer as well. Great Blue Heron Rookeries will likely move from the watershed. Turtles and muskrats relying on fish and mussels and food sources must move on or die.

The damage goes beyond fish, mussels, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, mammals, and avian species. There are human implications — many local residents rely on water wells — which have yet to be evaluated.

Do We Simply Watch It Happen ?

How many times and in how many places will history continue to repeat itself? Will the cleanup from Marcellus gas drilling be at taxpayers expense?

Certainly, it is better to make the industry pay a natural gas severance tax as they use the resource rather than to pass the burden to the state’s taxpayers — as it happened with the coal industry.

History is repeating itself and again the question begs to be asked; “How Rich Will We Be When We Have Converted All Our Forest, All Our Soil, All Our Water Resources and Minerals to Cash?”


Author Kathy Davis is a wildlife and fisheries biologist as well as a water pollution biologist. She resides in Washington County, PA.

This editorial courtesy of R. Martin, Coordinator www.PaForestCoalition.org
The Pennsylvania Forest Coalition is a unique alliance of hunters, hikers, anglers, landowners, wildlife-watchers, paddlers, bikers, churches and conservation groups who are united in our concern for the stewardship of our public lands.

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