Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Pennsylvania’s Top Papers Ignore Controversial ‘Forced Pooling’ Fracking Law

Energy

A gas company is attempting to use a half-century old Pennsylvania law to frack underneath the land of property owners who refuse to allow the controversial practice of fracking on their land, yet a majority of Pennsylvanians may be unaware as two of the state's top three newspapers have failed to mention the contentious issue.

'Forced pooling' allows companies to drill underneath the property of landowners that have refused to sign a lease if enough of their neighbors already have. Photo credit: Daniel Foster /Flickr

Hilcorp Energy, a Texas-based oil and gas company, is pushing legal action in Pennsylvania to be able to drill underneath the property of landowners that have refused to sign a lease if enough of their neighbors have already signed, a practice known as "forced pooling." The "unused and outdated" law, which is "pitting neighbor against neighbor" as reported by the Associated Press, would "shred private property rights" according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the only of the three highest circulating papers in Pennsylvania to cover the story. The other two, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, have completely overlooked the issue which has received national attention.

The "forced pooling" law would force landowners to allow the use of fracking to extract natural gas reserves underneath their property without their consent, creating concerns about the impact on property values and the threat of water pollution. A leaked document from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that natural gas extraction has caused methane to leak into domestic water wells, causing "significant damage" to the drinking water supply of the town.

Pennsylvania isn't the only state dealing with the "forced pooling" issue. Energy companies have been exploiting similar laws in many states including in Illinois and Ohio to the outrage of unsuspecting landowners. In Ohio, citizens are "furious" about the ruling that one citizen fears will "make him legally responsible for spills and other damage" according to the Associated Press. Some residents have "resigned to losing future income," while dozens of others are pushing forward lawsuits in an attempt to stop the forcible drilling. 

There is a similar sentiment in Pennsylvania even among those who support natural gas drilling and fracking. For example, Pennsylvania's Gov. Corbett (R-PA)—a strong proponent of natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania—opposes the law, likening it to "private eminent domain." And Marcellus Drilling News, a pro-fracking news site, has expressed disapproval of Hilcorp's use of the law, calling it "the low road." 

Hilcorp first requested to use the 1961 Pennsylvania law in July, when property owner Bob Svetlak refused to give up the land he has lived on since 1949, and moved forward with a legal action in October. The case bounced around different ruling bodies in the state with a final hearing eventually scheduled for late March 2014  that was subsequently postponed until early May due to the controversy surrounding the issue.

Since Hilcorp's first request in July, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review has published an editorial against the law, saying it "shreds private property rights" and is "patently unconstitutional." But the two other top Pennsylvania newspapers—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Philadelphia Inquirer—have remained silent on the issue over the same period (which is based on a Nexis search of hydraulic fracturing or frack! or Hilcorp from July 1, 2013, to April 13, 2014):

 

While never addressing the "forced drilling" issue, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which publicly "supports a well-regulated gas drilling industry," has been calling for fracking underneath the state's public lands—an issue that also has many citizens concernedpraising a deal to drill underneath a county park and decrying a proposed moratorium on drilling underneath state parks. The Philadelphia Inquirer, on the other hand, has been publishing editorials calling for prudence and accountability when it comes to fracking, but like the Post-Gazette, has never addressed the "forced drilling" issue.

Researcher Daniel Angster contributed to this report.

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Congress to EPA: Investigate and Address Water Contamination From Fracking

Court Order Allows Fracking Company to Ban Local Woman From 40 Percent of County

Anti-Fracking Groups Call on NC Governor to Protect Homeowner's Property Rights

-------- 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heavy industry on the lower Mississippi helps to create dead zones. AJ Wallace on Unsplash.

Cutting out coal-burning and other sources of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from heavy industry, electricity production and traffic will reduce the size of the world's dead zones along coasts where all fish life is vanishing because of a lack of oxygen.

Read More Show Less

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has restricted the ability to gather in peaceful assembly, a Canadian company has moved forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A gas flare from the Shell Chemical LP petroleum refinery illuminates the sky on August 21, 2019 in Norco, Louisiana. Drew Angerer / Getty Images.

Methane levels in the atmosphere experienced a dramatic rise in 2019, preliminary data released Sunday shows.

Read More Show Less
A retired West Virginia miner suffering from black lung visits a doctor for tests. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

In some states like West Virginia, coal mines have been classified as essential services and are staying open during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the close quarters miners work in and the known risks to respiratory health put miners in harm's way during the spread of the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Solar panel installations and a wind turbine at the Phu Lac wind farm in southern Vietnam's Binh Thuan province on April 23, 2019. MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP via Getty Images

Renewable energy made up almost three quarters of all new energy capacity added in 2019, data released Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows.

Read More Show Less