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The Center for Coalfield Justice Condemns Senator Yaw’s Proposal to Penalize Protection of Public Land

Posted Aug 4, 2022, by Lisa DePaoli

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Lisa DePaoli, lisa@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org, 724-229-3550, ext. 5  

WASHINGTON, PA — On July 19, 2022, after a years-long fight, the Allegheny County Council overrode a veto by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and banned fracking within and under county parks. Later that evening, Pennsylvania State Senator Gene Yaw issued a legislative memo in response to the County Council’s decision. The memo states that he intends to introduce legislation prohibiting Allegheny County and other counties who may follow their lead from receiving their share of state Impact Fee Drilling Fund. Counties that ban fracking on county-owned land would also become ineligible for any Marcellus Legacy Fund grants.

“The Center for Coalfield Justice condemns State Senator Gene Yaw’s proposal to prohibit counties that ban fracking on public land from receiving funds they are entitled to. Protecting our parks from the harmful effects of fossil fuel extraction is vital for the well-being of Pennsylvanians. Local governments should have the ability to regulate where fracking occurs to minimize its harmful effects without fear that they will lose their share of the Impact Fee Drilling Fund,” said Nina Victoria, a Policy Fellow at the Center for Coalfield Justice. 

The Impact Fee Drilling Fund distributes millions of dollars into counties that are home to unconventional gas wells. The more wells the county has, the more money they receive from impact fees. For example, Allegheny County received $1,864,756 in 2021. The impact fees a county receives can be spent in thirteen categories that relate to the effects of unconventional drilling, including repairing roadways and water and sewage systems, reducing taxes, and to increase the availability of safe and affordable housing.

The Impact Fee Drilling Fund also allows the Commonwealth to issue Marcellus Legacy Fund Grants for statewide initiatives that “include abandoned mine drainage abatement; abandoned well plugging; sewage treatment; greenways, trails and recreation; baseline water quality data; watershed restoration; and flood control.” While grant amounts vary, municipalities could receive up to $1,000,000 to make improvements.

The Impact Fee Drilling Fund is vital to the restoration of communities. However, counties that are home to operating unconventional gas wells should have the ability to protect public land from drilling without risk of losing funding they depend on. Since the pandemic’s start, Pennsylvania residents have been using parks and trails at unprecedented levels. They are indispensable places where we can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine for the benefit of our physical and mental health. Counties should not lose revenue they are entitled to from existing wells because they choose to ban new wells in parks or other public land.

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Author

  • Lisa DePaoli

    Lisa (Coffield) DePaoli joined the CCJ staff as Outreach Coordinator in December 2018 and moved into the role of Communications Manager in 2020. She grew up in rural Washington County, has family in both Washington and Greene Counties, and has always loved animals and spending time outdoors. A first-generation and nontraditional college student, her deep interest in human beings and ecology led her to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. She has worked on research projects and taught at the university level in the U.S. and in field schools in Latin America. The knowledge and experience she gained increased her concern for environmental and social justice issues, which she believes are best addressed at the local level, or from the "bottom up." Lisa works to understand issues from the local to the global, seeks to make a positive difference, and loves to talk to people about what interests or concerns them. In her free time, she enjoys reading, spending time with her family, furkids, and friends, and walking in the woods with her dogs.

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