Explanation of Watson Township Supervisor David Kagan’s Resignation
by David Kagan
This letter is to explain to my Watson Township constituents (especially the 30+ who went to the polls last November to vote me in as a write-in candidate) and the general public why I have decided to resign as a Watson Township Supervisor.
There are two basic reasons: (1) I believe that the state’s recent passage of Act 13 has essentially pre-empted any action that a township or other municipality could take to regulate the Marcellus Shale gas industry in any substantive way, and I would be unwilling to participate in what has been determined by our township solicitor to be a necessary rewriting of our township’s zoning ordinance to “place it in line” with Act 13, an action that would, in my view, be weakening it, whereas I ran for office with the intent of possibly strengthening the zoning ordinance; and (2) I have found it impossible to work amiably and productively with James Seltzer, the Chairman of the Watson Township Supervisors.
Returning to my private life “outside of politics,” I assure those who know me, and especially those who voted for me last November, that I will continue to work to mitigate the safety hazards created by the Marcellus Shale hydraulic-fracturing industry, to try to maintain as much as possible the style of life we had come to expect and treasure here in Pine Creek Valley, and to publish the reality of life as it has deteriorated with the advent of the “fracking” industry to as wide an audience as I can reach through my writings, interviews with the media, and speeches at anti-fracking rallies.
Governor’s Office Responds to Article on Act 13
Steven Rosenfeld’s recent editorial on Act 13, the state’s new law overseeing Marcellus Shale development in the Commonwealth, carries many impassioned condemnations of the law by ill-informed commentators, but unfortunately carries few, if any, real facts about the law. So let me set the record straight.
For starters, Mr. Rosenfeld characterizes Act 13 as draconian—yet in nearly 2,400 words he fails to actually identify a single provision that is, well, draconian. The “gag order” on physicians? Doesn’t exist. In fact, Act 13 carries the most progressive disclosure law in the nation, and ensures that physicians receive all information they need, but can share it with the patient and other health care providers as they deem necessary to provide care for the patient, should the need arise.
So what exactly is draconian about Act 13? Increasing setback distances from buildings, wells and streams? Adopting among the highest well bonding amounts in the entire nation, up to a total of $850,000? Increasing notification to citizens and municipalities? Requiring more inspections and posting inspection reports, violations and remedial action online, for all to see? Increasing civil penalties and easing DEP’s ability to suspend, revoke or deny a permit? Increasing the “rebuttable presumption” distance to protect water supplies? Requiring water replacements to meet or exceed standards set by the Safe Drinking Water Act? Limiting drilling activities within floodzones? Enhancing emergency response standards?
Mr. Rosenfeld also says that the impact fee is $50,000 per well. He is incorrect. The impact fee operates on a schedule based on the price of natural gas. The $50,000 per well fee is for the first year. Act 13 provides for wells to pay a fee for at least 15 years, and longer if they are re-stimulated. This is in addition to the corporate or personal income tax, sales and use, capital stock and franchise, liquid fuels and other taxes paid by operators and their employees, totaling nearly $2 billion over the past few years.
As someone involved in helping to craft Act 13, I can assure you none of this was done in the proverbial “backroom” and none of it was written by the oil and gas industry. Invoking those thoughts—perpetuated by many who simply don’t want to see gas drilling done right—may fire up their ill-informed supporters, but, sadly for those who wish to oppose responsible drilling and support our continued export of dollars and jobs overseas, they are simply not true.
Act 13, by any reasonable analysis, contains the most progressive environmental standards in the nation to protect our air, land and water. Communities all across the state will receive over $180 million from the impact fee, climbing to nearly $265 million within 3 years. And traditional zoning authority—language crafted with the input of the state’s township supervisors, county commissioners and boroughs—is maintained to ensure that oil and gas drilling operators must adhere to high, but predictable, local zoning standards.
Contrary to the claims of the author, and in contrast to both West Virginia and Ohio which indeed have total pre-emption of local government oversight of oil and gas—Act 13 contains and retains significant—but fair and reasonable—authority for local governments to zone for oil and gas activities. Act 13 was, after all, endorsed by the township supervisors association, boroughs association, county commissioners association and numerous environmental and conservation groups that read and actually understood the legislation.
There will be those who deny that we need jobs and we need clean energy; those who will not accept gas drilling at any level; those who are dismayed that Act 13 may have actually got it right. But that is not license to distort, mislead and misrepresent what the law actually contains. That does nothing to educate your readers and to further what should be a goal shared by all Pennsylvanians: the safe and responsible development of our indigenous energy resources.
Patrick Henderson, Energy Executive
Office of Governor Tom Corbett
238 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120