The tragic well explosion in Dunkard Township, and the comments made about it by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Chris Abruzzo, demonstrate that the DEP’s continued fight to save Act 13 is nothing short of reckless.
Act 13’s zoning regulations prohibit drilling at a maximum distance of 500 feet from existing buildings, including schools, residences, offices or hospitals, but provides for situations where drilling may occur even closer if deemed necessary or permitted locally. In Dunkard, the Pennsylvania State Police established a half-mile perimeter around the site, with Secretary Abruzzo viewing it from a distance of about 1,500 feet. The situation in Dunkard shows that a 500-foot setback is not adequate to protect the lives of Pennsylvanians.
As per Bob Niedbala’s Feb. 12 article in the Observer-Reporter, Secretary Abruzzo commented that it was “fortunate” that the well site was remote. It is anything but “fortunate” that an individual lost his life, and it will not be fortunate when this type of incident occurs in a less remote area. Now is the time for the DEP to recognize its flawed approach and advocate for setbacks that actually protect Pennsylvanians.
Nick Kennedy is a community advocate for the Mountain Watershed Association.