Group urges support for drilling regulations and expresses disapproval of Quigley resignation

HARRISBURG, June 6 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, along with a coalition of interest groups, today held a news conference to urge Gov. Tom Wolf to support proposed natural gas drilling regulations (Chapter 78 surface regulations), and to express disapproval of the forced resignation of DEP Secretary John Quigley.

Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said that environmental supporters believe the regulations are on the chopping block, but so far Gov. Wolf has refused to commit to supporting them.

He added that the forces that are trying to stop the regulations are the same forces that led to Quigley’s forced resignation.

"Secretary Quigley was forced to resign because he was too effective," Vitali said. "He helped usher the regulations through the process, which upset many people in the drilling industry."

Vitali questioned what Quigley’s resignation means for other important environmental policies that he had been working on, including the state’s Clean Power Plan, methane regulations, climate change, the Chesapeake Bay strategy and additional funding for the Department of Environmental Protection.

Myron Arnowitt, state director of Clean Water Action, said his organization urges the legislature and the governor to support the drilling regulations.

He said that after 30,000 public comments, 12 public hearings and approval by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, the time has come to put the regulations in place to make drilling safer.

"The oil and gas industry feels that it should not be regulated," Arnowitt said. "However, their operations are continually polluting the environment. We urge Gov. Wolf to back these regulations."

He added that Quigley was a great proponent of the environment and his resignation continues a disturbing trend of a lack of environmental leaders in Harrisburg. He concluded by urging the governor to name a DEP secretary who fills the leadership void.

Anita Mentzer from the Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network said that conventional drillers use millions of gallons of water and they have a significant number of violations at well sites, so they should be included in the drilling regulations.

She said her organization urges the legislature and the governor to support the regulations as they are currently written.

"It is the responsibility of our elected officials to uphold the environmental rights of the state’s citizens," Mentzer said. "These regulations are in the public interest and we oppose any efforts to block or weaken them."