Environmental Activist: Deer Lake Park Lease is a Win-Win-Win-Win

Deer Lakes Park

HeadshotI recently attended an informational meeting regarding a proposed lease to develop shale resources beneath Deer Lake Park in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. You can read my full write up from the meeting here, which was published by Energy In Depth.  The meeting brought out community members from both sides of the fracking debate. For the purpose of this post I will be focusing on the public testimony given by, Jeanne K. Clark at the meeting.

Clark is the former PennFuture director of communications and describes herself as an environmental professional and activist. For anyone unfamiliar with PennFuture their slogan reads, “Every Environmental Victory Grows the Economy” so you can imagine where they stand on the topic of shale development and fracking. So, It’s interesting that despite being PennFuture’s director of communications for 13 years, Clark is a firm believer in the good shale development is doing for our economy and environment. During her testimony Clark urged the Allegheny Council members to sign the proposed lease to develop shale beneath Deer Lake Park. Clark stated that this project is a “win-win-win-win” for both environmental and economic reasons.

Below I have placed a video of Clark’s testimony as well as a transcript:

I speak tonight as a long time environmental professional and activist. I was the co-founder of Women for a Healthy Environment and founder of the Environmental Communications Center of Western Pennsylvania.  For 13 years I was the Director of Communications for PennFuture. I have actively changed our states laws and regulations to cut pollution, to fight global warming and to protect the environment and, I’ve had a lot of success. I saved deer creek from a mall so that people can now fish.  I helped write the alternative energy portfolio standard and brought it to law so we could have more solar and wind power. I helped build the Pennsylvania home energy loan program so communities and families could make their homes more energy efficient and I brought the clean vehicles program to Pennsylvania. I’ve also improved regulations around drilling.  It is with this professional and personal background, and as an environmentalist, I am here to support the lease and support drilling underneath Deer Lake Park.

I believe the lease agreements for this project provide full protections to the park and the people in the communities around the park, this will protect the park. In my analysis I have relied on science, the law and primary credo of decision making, that to properly decide any action one must consider the risks and methods of doing something versus the risks and benefits of not taking that action.  That’s key, we must look at what would happen if we don’t take this action and what will happen if we do. And that brings one clear fact, fracking is going to take place around the park no matter what. Property owners around the park are exercising their constitutional rights to lease their land for fracking and these leases will stay in place whether or not council approves the park lease. The property owners in the community right now only have protections from DEP and only what they have written in their leases. So that means the community right now has no additional protections for air, water or public safety and their are absolutely no protections for the park.

But, if council approves this lease these property owners and the community will have significant additional protections. Water will be tested an additional 1,000 feet further from DEP requires and water will be tested more often. Fire control will be enhanced with apparatus and supplies on the well site at all times and automatic shut-offs in place. A well control expert will be on site whenever there’s drilling operations taking place and the local fire departments will receive enhanced training and equipment. Noise and light restrictions will protect the local community and the observatory. Truck traffic will be limited on school bus routes and the companies will be required to fix and maintain county roads used. Most of all there will be absolutely no surface disturbance in any part of the park. let me emphasize, that none of these protections will be in place without the county lease, yet drilling will take place.

This agreement will also bring significant revenue and a guarantee that that money will be used for improving the park. I know Deer Lakes Park, I know this area and frankly it broke my heart to drive through and see what’s happened to the community. The county park isn’t pristine and it hasn’t been improved or maintained. We’ll be able to take care of that park and this agreement will bring jobs and financial benefits to the community so we can once again have small businesses along the road throughout the community. In short, this agreement in a win-win-win-win providing advanced environmental protections, major financial benefits, and good paying jobs, all the while protecting the park. Without the agreement we gain nothing and risk everything. We risk real environmental harm to community properties. I strongly urge council to approve the lease which is a model other Pennsylvania municipalities should follow.

With the benefits to shale development – both economic and environmental – becoming more known I expect to continue to see more of those previously opposed to the process jumping ship and working with the industry for better regulations, instead of an outright ban on the process. Pittsburgh City Council will hold a few more informational meetings before deciding whether or not to allow shale development beneath Deer Lake Park.

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