Warren Kampf: Marcellus Shale 'Can't Be Ignored'
The state Rep. held a town hall on July 30 at Phoenixville Area High School.
Though the voters who gathered last night at Phoenixville Area High School for state Rep. Warren Kampf’s (R-157) town hall meeting hailed overwhelmingly from Chester and Montgomery counties, the questions they peppered the incumbent with reflected concerns that were considerably less provincial.
In the two hour back and forth, a majority of the queries Kampf fielded were variations on four themes with national implications: in the wake of the Aurora massacre, gun control; the new voter ID law critics charge was motivated by partisan, not antifraud, concerns; natural gas extraction; and the management of the state’s profoundly underfunded pension system.
Today, we’ll look at the Republican’s views on Act 13, and the issues surrounding the extraction of Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas reserves.
The Marcellus Shale
Kampf defended the legislature’s controversial passage of Act 13—a law regulating the extraction of natural gas in the state—by first pointing out that it's almost certainly better than what it replaced: namely, nothing. Kampf reminded the audience that the first hydraulic fracking well was drilled in the state ten years back, but Act 13, the first meaningful regulation of the industry in Pennsylvania, was passed just six months ago. He called the law an “excellent start towards handling the shale” albeit one that was “well overdue.”
In defense of the law’s content—which critics charge benefits energy companies at the expense of the commonwealth’s taxpayers and gas-rich municipalities—he argued that it mandates drillers pay a steep impact fee and establishes water management, well permitting, and bonding requirements, and a host of other “pretty comprehensive” regulations.
The impact fee, he said, amounts to $500 million a year: 60 percent of which goes to the counties who are drilled in—moneys which they can use towards prescribed purposes like infrastructure, police and fire, zoning and planning, and housing—and 40 percent of which goes to the state. He added that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection gets a “substantial” portion of these state dollars.
And though the law has gotten some pushback from the judicial branch, he said its objections strike him as wrongheaded. Kampf disagrees with the Commonwealth Court’s July 26 ruling that a portion of the law that blocked municipalities from exercising certain controls over gas extraction on their land was unconstitutional.
“[The ruling is] somewhat at odds with what I know about zoning law,” he said, adding that the provision just aims to prevent municipalities from “discriminating against drilling, in the same way you can’t discriminate against any other industrial activity.”
He added that the court struck down another aspect of the law granting the state DEP the right to waive setback requirements—rules governing the proximity to, for example, buildings and water supplies at which drillers can operate—because the law didn’t provide standards for when the agency could grant exemptions.
“We’re probably going to have revisit that particular piece,” Kampf said.
The Rep. added that, on a more local level, the state legislature voted on June 30 to put a moratorium on drilling in the still untouched South Newark Basin—a natural gas resevoir that extends into northern Chester County—until the DEP can do further study on the consequences of tapping it. The moratorium will last three years.
But while he affirmed the value of local control, he suggested that Pennsylvania's gas reserves might be too crucial to the state to leave to its municipalities. They're an enormous engine of economic growth.
“I respect local zoning,” Kampf said, “[but] I also have to say that the Marcellus Shale is something that Pennsylvania cannot ignore.”
In a moment when the economy is still faltering, he said natural gas extraction has already created 250,000 jobs and should create 250,000 more if its reserves are fully exploited.