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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