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Pa. Supreme Court’s Response to Local Well Pads and Public Health

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

Fracking well pad

Protect PT has issued the following response to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision June 22, dismissing Protect PT’s appeals regarding the Metis and Gaia Fracking Well Pads in Penn Township, Westmoreland County. Protect PT is calling for greater setbacks for homes, schools and sources of drinking water, in line with the Pa. attorney general’s grand jury Investigation.

“We were under the impression that the Pa. Supreme Court took up this appeal because of its great public importance. What could be more important than public health?” said Gillian Graber, executive director of Protect PT. “Dismissing this case is a misuse of public resources at the municipal and state level.”

The Pa. Supreme Court heard oral arguments May 19 on appeals 2 WAP 2021 and 3 WAP 2021 regarding the Metis and Gaia fracking well pads in Penn Township, Westmoreland County.

Protect PT asserted that the Commonwealth Court ignored the evidence presented by public health expert Dr. Walter Tsou, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

”Justice was not served by our highest court. Similar to the Cosby decision, they were more concerned with procedure than protecting the victims who were or will be harmed by a pernicious, profit making industry with no regard to public health,” said expert witness, Dr. Walter Tsou. Dr. Tsou testified before the Penn Township Zoning Hearing Board in 2018 that public health concerns must be considered using The Precautionary Principle. The Precautionary Principle states that when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

“The Court’s dismissal of these appeals is one more example of why Pennsylvania needs sweeping legislative change to protect residents from dangerous fracking development,” said Graber. “Hundreds of scientific studies show that the more distance you put between fracking development and people, the more protection residents will have from this heavy industrial process. The very least the state legislators could do, if they care about the public health of Pennsylvanians, is increase that distance and disallow waivers of that distance. While this will not solve all of Pa.’s problems with this industry, it would be the first step in the right direction.”

In Pennsylvania, the current setback from fracking wells to homes, schools, or other buildings is 500 feet and the property owner is able to waive the setback from any building on their property, possibly reducing the distance between the well and their neighbors’ homes. Based on a substantial and growing body of scientific evidence, the Pa. attorney general’s office released a grand jury report in June 2020 that stated the minimum setback from the property’s edge of a well site to any occupied building should be at least 2,500 feet from homes and 5,000 feet from a reservoir, school or hospital.

The report also calls for safer transport of fracking waste, greater oversight on pipelines, comprehensive health response plans for people living near a drilling site, assessment of air quality, limits on former DEP employees from working in the private sector with criminal jurisdiction given to the attorney general and not natural gas companies.

Protect PT encourages residents to call their state senators and representatives and ask them to support legislative change and greater setbacks on oil and gas development. “Voters need to tell their legislators that they want good health and let them know that they will be held accountable for protecting our health and upholding our constitutional rights as Pennsylvanians,” said Graber.

About Protect PT: Protect PT (Penn-Trafford) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring residents' safety, security, and quality of life by engaging in education and advocacy to protect the economic, environmental, and legal rights of the people in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.



PA Supreme Court Docket Sheet 3 WAP 2021

National Library of Medicine

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