Senate Approves Baker Bill on Wellsite Safety

Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20)

Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20)

HARRISBURG – A bill to improve emergency management and response at Marcellus Shale wellsites received the approval of the Senate today. Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) offered the following remarks in support of the measure, which she sponsored:

There are many different views and disagreements over policy about the gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. But there is at least one thing on which there is a broad consensus – the necessity of being prepared to react and respond when something goes wrong. Whether it involves where wells are being drilled or facilities are operating.

This bill provides for the emergency preparedness required to protect the health and safety of our communities, and safeguard the environment against trouble turning into catastrophe.

Just last week, an article ran in the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE under the headline, “DEP’s Marcellus Shale drilling numbers do not add up.”

This article underscored what emergency management officials have been worrying about: no one knows exactly how many Marcellus Shale wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania, or where they all are.

This most basic information is essential in an emergency.

Senate Bill 995 requires drillers to implement the most basic rules of public safety: to plan for disaster, to share their emergency plans with the people who will implement them, and to have 911 information at their fingertips.

Senate Bill 995 requires drillers to inform state and local officials of wellpad locations and access roads. In this way, the Commonwealth better protects the health and safety of first responders and the public.

Any first responder will tell you that the best weapon against injury, environmental damage, property destruction, and death is not the most state-of-the art fire truck, radio, or protective gear—it is information.

Senate Bill 995 fills a gaping information hole. When something goes wrong, having emergency information posted at the site, and a plan that is shared with key emergency personnel, are vital parts of a risk reduction plan.

When tragedy strikes, every second counts. Firefighters and ambulance crews cannot waste time searching for a well pad or access road. If we plan for tragedy before it strikes, we can reduce the risk to people, property and the environment.

As the pace of drilling picks up, the emergency response must ramp up as well. Senate Bill 995 is a reasonable, realistic and responsible approach to ensuring wellsite safety in Pennsylvania.


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