Keep Drilling Rigs at Work

Officials in West Virginia and Ohio have taken a relatively wise course regarding natural gas drilling. They are investigating the process used to exploit gas in the Marcellus Shale, discussing new regulations – and allowing wells to be drilled in the meantime.

Not all states have been as rational. New York has enforced a moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling since 2008, while new regulations are being drafted. Maryland lawmakers are considering restrictions while they spend two years studying the industry.

That’s fine – at least for Ohio and West Virginia residents – unless the federal government gets into the act. We encourage members of Congress from our states to resist any suggestions the EPA interfere with state regulation of gas drilling.

A coalition led by several environmental groups is demanding the government conduct a “programmatic environmental impact statement” study of Marcellus Shale drilling. That would require the Environmental Protection Agency to intensify the study already in progress on issues such as drinking water quality and gas wells.

Rest assured that at some point, the more radical in the environmentalist community will suggest the government should impose its own moratorium on Marcellus Shale wells until an exhaustive study is completed.

We have no concern about such a study. The more we know about any industry, the better. That should be obvious.

But moratoriums such as New York’s make no sense in view of the gas drilling industry’s environmental record. We are aware of no serious, proven environmental problems with Marcellus Shale wells. The existing regulatory framework in most states seems to address most concerns, and new rules on the way should take care of issues unique to the Marcellus Shale drilling process.

In the meantime, Americans need all the help we can get with new sources of energy. Economically beleaguered areas such as ours need every dime gas drilling and production can pump into our communities.

By all means, then, investigate gas drilling scientifically – but don’t hamper it until and unless good reason is found to do so.