Mayor Comitta’s testimony on oil and gas well standards

West Chester Public Hearing
Proposed Chapter 78 Environmental Protection Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites Regulations before the DEP

January 9, 2014

Carolyn T. Comitta, Mayor
Borough of West Chester

Good evening members of the DEP. I am Carolyn Comitta, Mayor of the Borough of West Chester. Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony on concerns of fracking waste pits and the potential harmful impact to the people of West Chester.

There are many communities who think all the issues of Marcellus Shale are not their problem. They live outside the Shale region and are not impacted by drilling and fracking wastewater. This thinking is naïve, ignorant and short-sighted.

Although West Chester and Chester County are not located in the Marcellus Shale region, we are downstream from the regions where fracking operations are underway and growing rapidly. Not that many years ago, it was common for people to think about only their own backyards, and not worry themselves about the problems of their neighbors. We have learned through too many tragedies, starting with the Chernobyl nuclear accident, that toxins when released indeed can blow and flow around the world. Air and water pollution does not respect national, state or regional boundaries. We all live downstream.

West Chester’s water sources and public health are at risk from regional pollution. In addition, West Chester’s economic development is directly connected to the success of our region and our state. My sense is that the Chapter 78 sections on “Waste Management at Well Sites” and “Off-site Issues” are the most relevant for residents of Chester County who are concerned about downstream impacts (including regulations for pipelines). It is from this perspective that I urge you to take the time necessary to make careful scientifically-based decisions on waste management at well sites and off-site.

It is important to note that the DEP considered other changes. For instance, they considered eliminating pits and underground tanks for managing wastes, but felt such restrictions were impractical. Are they really? I contend that the health of our people, our children, should be at the top of any list of standards for practicality.

The science appears to support a ban on fracking waste pits at this time. In addition, while many of us want all fracking to cease, we must stop expansion until the FULL effects of drilling are fully understood. Others will outline the science. I speak for the children who are the future of West Chester. I urge you to slow down, study the science and choose only those options that are deemed to be scientifically safe for the children of West Chester and the Commonwealth. Thank you.