Editorial opinions from other newspapers
Friday, February 24, 2012
Pocono Record, Stroudsburg: Federal study needed to assess drilling's impact.
Pennsylvanians will have a better grasp of the effects of natural gas drilling once the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completes a study.
EPA officials are focusing their gaze on Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, which has more wells and compressor stations than any other region of Pennsylvania. Washington County, like parts of northeastern Pennsylvania, lies on top of the sprawling Marcellus Shale deposit. Drilling companies have flocked to the area to tap the natural gas trapped in the shale.
The EPA's findings should help clarify questions that have been raging over the environmental impacts of shale drilling on the Keystone state's air and water. The agency began last September conducting a variety of tests and will remain in the area for several more months.
The Corbett administration has touted the natural gas drilling industry as an important component of Pennsylvania's economy, stressing the jobs it provides along with precious revenues and "clean" energy.
However, drilling opponents have raised questions since the beginning over the safety of the hydrofracturing process, called "fracking," that drillers use to break up the deep deposits of shale and extract the gas from them. The technique requires the injection of a mixture of water, sand and chemicals - drillers aren't required to say which chemicals - and, later, the hauling away and safe disposal of the wastewater. Furthermore, compressor stations that prepare the extracted gas for transport emit nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and airborne particulates. EPA scientists should be able to tell whether these emissions are minimal or are degrading the air quality in areas around the stations.
Drillers are making a fortune on natural gas, and Pennsylvanians themselves stand to benefit economically from the additional commerce. But there have been problems. Methane has contaminated the groundwater, and thus the drinking water, for some residents in rural Dimock, Tioga County. Chemical spills have occurred.
The EPA assessment will weigh the risks of drilling against the benefits by monitoring how drilling and its spinoff activities affect our natural environment. Our beautiful Pennsylvania landscape should not become a cash cow at the expense of Pennsylvanians' quality of life.
Lancaster New Era: Prison guards put union's needs ahead of needs of taxpayers.
Gov. Tom Corbett proposes the biggest reduction in the prison population in Pennsylvania history.
State prison guards are not impressed.
Corbett plans to reduce the population by 2,500 inmates in 2013 through increased efficiency in the parole process.
Currently, it costs $93.21 per inmate per day, and the state has 51,600 inmates in 27 prisons that were designed to hold no more than 44,000.
But the unionized prison guards say it can't be done, at least not the way the governor envisions.
"The only way it can be done is they're going to have to cut people loose that shouldn't be cut loose," says Roy Pinto, president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.
That's not going to happen, insists Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel.
"Nowhere did you hear us say we are changing the criteria for parole," Wetzel says.
There are inmates ready to be paroled but aren't because the system is inefficient, he says.
Likewise, Michael Potteiger, state parole board chairman, stresses that the board - which operates independently from Corrections - does not make decisions based on prison populations.
"We're not changing any criteria for a person to be paroled. Getting people who've already been paroled out the door sooner isn't a safety risk," Potteiger says.
Union president Pinto's feigned concern for public safety masks his No. 1 priority - protecting the jobs of union members.
Pinto apparently is worried that any efficiencies implemented by Corrections could result in fewer prison guards or, at least, less overtime pay (overtime totals $60 million a year in the prison budget).
Pinto also attempts to deflect any criticism of guard staffing by claiming the system is "top heavy" in management.
Sorry to say, Pinto seems all too willing to put the union's needs ahead of taxpayers.
Rather than resist Corbett's efforts to better run the state prison system, Pinto and the union leadership should embrace them.
The efforts not only stand to improve the prison system, but save significant sums of taxpayer money in the process.
Prison guards are taxpayers, too.
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