By State Sen. Andy Dinniman
Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board is reviewing new regulations for how the land around fracking wells should be restored. It is vital that we restore the land in a way that makes sense environmentally and economically.
I have formally requested that the board approve regulations that mandate the use of pasteurized mushroom compost in the restoration of fracking wells.
Using mushroom compost and other properly composted organic material is an environmentally sound and competitively priced way to restore soil surfaces – be it at drilling sites or pipeline projects. Two inches of compost at a typical five-acre well site costs less than $1,800, and applied correctly, adds natural nutrients, organic matter and oxygen to the soil, which in turn ensures deeper root growth and the 70 percent vegetation levels required by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
In addition, the more compost one uses, the less synthetic fertilizer one needs, which in turn decreases nutrient run-off into our groundwater and waterways. Making natural-gas drilling companies use more mushroom compost and less synthetic fertilizer aligns perfectly with Pennsylvania’s ongoing efforts to reduce the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment flowing into our watersheds.
Using mushroom compost to restore fracking sites is also advantageous from a business and economic standpoint. Chester County is the mushroom capitol of the United States. Last year, our 53 mushroom farms sold 384 million pounds of common mushrooms – fully 44 percent of the nation’s harvest. We also produced more mushroom compost than anyone else.
Let me make clear that I continue to have problems with Act 13 of 2012, Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale law. I still believe that the law’s language misses the mark environmentally; in terms of its impact fee; its vague language regarding what doctors may disclose regarding chemical fracking fluids; and its limits on municipalities’ ability to control what goes on within their borders.
Thankfully, the last part regarding local zoning rights was recently struck down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and I will continue to work on improving or overturning other parts of Act 13.
But we cannot ignore that Act 13 is the law today. Indeed, we can and must work to make this law and its related regulations as beneficial as they can be for Pennsylvania’s natural resources and businesses, including Chester County’s world-class mushroom and compost industries.
Supporters of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale industry and Act 13 of 2012 have continually touted the benefits that Marcellus Shale will bring to all Pennsylvania. It is time to match word with deed and to enact Act 13 regulations that ensure drillers restore their well sites with environmentally sensitive compost produced right here in Chester County.
Andy Dinniman, of West Whiteland, is state Senator for Pennsylvania’s 19th Senatorial District.