The Pennsylvania town is located in an extremely rural area about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Licking has always had what others want.
In the 19th century, it was iron ore, and by the time that dried up, the town’s forest was decimated. Then it was, and to a much lesser extent still is, mining for coal, and with that, much of its prized farmland has disappeared.
Now, the energy industry is eyeing Licking for its perhaps, rich shale gas.“If you don’t learn from your mistakes you are bound to repeat them,” said Mik Robertson.
Drillers pump numerous chemicals in to the ground to extract natural gas trapped in rock. How that “produced” water is disposed of concerns homeowners, and farmers, because in Licking, they all rely on well-water.
Frack water has already led to limited groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania.
“It would have a huge impact if we were to have widespread degradation of the groundwater,” said Robertson.
The town penned its ‘Community Water Rights and Self-Government’ law with some help from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
Robertson says they are not in anyway thwarting the energy industry, “All we are doing is saying there is going to be liability, which there should be anyhow.”
Companies will have to carry its waste water to a treatment facility outside the township. As of now only one company, EQT, is planning to drill in Licking.
Robertson says the ordinance is not meant to overlook what the state department of environmental protection is charged with – - but Robertson says, “to have the state run the whole show and pre-empt local law, I think that is where we are starting to run in to trouble here in Pennsylvania.”
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