In conducting what was clearly a politically motivated and closed-door effort to vilify natural gas development in Pennsylvania, the state’s attorney general in a grand jury report announced last week reached many erroneous conclusions that ignore what has taken place in Pennsylvania over the past several years, as well as the efforts of hundreds of regulators, researchers and other professionals to develop and update the state’s laws and regulations during decades of oil and gas production. Here are a few examples:

Conclusion: Expand no-drill zones in Pennsylvania from the required 500 feet to 2,500 feet.

The Facts: Act 13, the comprehensive oil and gas law enacted in 2012 in response to the advent of unconventional natural gas development in Pennsylvania, doubled the setback standard from 250 feet to 500 feet – a distance that aligns with the majority of other oil and gas-producing states. Municipalities also have the flexibility to adjust the setback through local zoning based on local conditions, and have done so in recent years.

Conclusion: Require fracking companies to publicly disclose all chemicals used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing before they are used on-site.

The Facts: Act 13 requires the disclosure of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, and producers in Pennsylvania have also made that information broadly available for years through the FracFocus website.

Conclusion: Require the regulation of gathering lines, used to transport unconventional gas hundreds of miles.

The Facts: The safe construction and operation of gathering lines are essential to every natural gas producer’s goal of transporting their product from the wellhead to the consumer. Gathering lines are tested frequently for integrity, and producers take safety in their operation very seriously. This is best reflected in the excellent safety record compiled by producers over the past several years in the operation of their gathering lines as well as the unconventional industry’s initiative to be included in the PA One Call law even when not required under federal pipeline safety laws.

Conclusion: Add up all sources of air pollution in a given area to accurately assess air quality.

The Facts: Multiple studies have been undertaken by the Department of Environmental Protection and by natural gas producers using independent engineering companies to collect ambient air samples – the “real air” that people breathe – around oil and gas wells, compressor stations, and other infrastructure. Those studies have reached the same conclusion: that there is no evidence of impaired air quality from any of those sources.

Conclusion: Require safer transport of the contaminated waste created from fracking sites.

The Facts: Natural gas producers have been successful in recycling huge amounts of water used in hydraulic fracturing, reducing the volume of water requiring transport and disposal. The state’s regulation requires that every gallon of water used by producers is accounted for, from collection to disposal. Trucks are placarded according to federal Department of Transportation regulations, and background checks are conducted on drivers to certify their record of safe driving. Additionally, companies that transport these materials have an excellent safety record.

Conclusion: Conduct a comprehensive health response to the effects of living near unconventional drilling sites.

The Facts: The state is in the process of doing this via a two-year, $3-million study, and the natural gas industry supports a scientific and objective examination.

Conclusion: Limit the ability of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection employees to be employed in the private sector immediately after leaving the department.

The Facts: Experienced personnel in all areas of government logically have the potential to seek employment in their fields of expertise. Individuals working in the state Insurance Commission often go to work for insurance companies. Those in the Department of Transportation go to work for highway contractors, and people in the Public Utility Commission often work for regulated utilities. Legislators frequently seek employment in areas in which they have developed expertise. Employees from the Department of Environmental Protection should be treated no differently than these other professionals. The recommendation to do otherwise impugns the integrity of these hardworking professionals.

Conclusion: Allow the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General original criminal jurisdiction over unconventional oil and gas companies.

The Facts: Pennsylvania has one of the most rigorous and comprehensive regulatory programs in the nation. The Department of Environmental Protection conducts thousands of inspections of drilling locations every year, and should retain the primary responsibility for enforcing the environmental laws and regulations of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania so that these prosecutorial decisions are not influenced by political considerations.

Pennsylvania’s oil and natural gas producers, along with the companies that support their operations, are committed to protecting their workers, neighbors, and the natural resources of the communities where they work and live by adhering to these laws and regulations. The Commonwealth’s long history of oil and natural gas development includes the first successful oil well, drilled by Col. Edwin Drake near Titusville in 1859, and the pioneering Haymaker Well, a natural gas well drilled in Westmoreland County in 1878 and harnessed to power gas lights via a pipeline to the City of Pittsburgh, 15 miles west. Today, Pennsylvania’s natural gas meets one-third of our nation’s total demand for energy. PIOGA’s members and the thousands of other Pennsylvanians responsible for producing that energy are proud to operate safely and in compliance with the Commonwealth’s environmental laws.

Former DEP Secretary Mike Krancer has written a more comprehensive response to the attorney general’s report. It can be found here if you would like to read the perspective of a top agency official who led the department between 2011-2013.

Also see this analysis from Energy In Depth: ‘Legally Erroneous’: Governor, Regulators Slam Anti-Fracking Pa. Grand Jury Report