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General legal issues
In Pennsylvania, the main public concern is policy and legal issues relating to drilling of Marcellus Shale. Most of these legal issues have been contributed by the development activities related to Drilling of Marcellus Shale.
These legal issues address areas of concern such as environmental degradation, development of the industry’s infrastructure, municipal regulation, and so on. Major legal developments related to Drilling of Marcellus are outlined below.
In order for a company to be allowed to carry out Marcellus Drilling activities, it must hold legal rights to the interests of natural gas property that are subject to the drilling activities (Blackburn 15). According to Blackburn (16), the land owner is the one who grants such rights pursuant to the terms of a lease agreement on gas and oil.
The law in Pennsylvania requires that energy companies to extensively deal with private land owners in the process of acquiring leases. This is because most of natural gas rights within the formation of Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania are under private ownership (Blackburn 20).
In the Farm and Forest Land assessment Act of 1974, the land legible for mining is assessed based on the value of its use rather than its value in fair market. This statute is also known as Clean and Green.
The result of this is usually lower real estate tax obligations. Incase such a land is used for an ineligible purpose, this statute provides for a roll back tax penalty. The requirement of the penalty is that the owner of the land must pay up to seven years of tax benefits received along with interest (Beck 20).
Environmental legal issues
Many issues of environmental law have cropped up in Pennsylvania as a result of an increase in the number of Marcellus Drilling activities. The main focus of these laws has focused on the quality of water. The reason for this is that the process of Marcellus drilling requires a huge amount of water.
This huge amount of water is usually used during the process of hydraulic fracturing. The ability to extract natural gas from Marcellus drilling depends on the technology of hydraulic fracturing.
Therefore, the law requires that before any company begins Marcellus drilling operations, it must obtain proper water permits. For instance, natural gas drilling companies, which use water from River Susquehanna are required to obtain the approval of Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), before using water from the river (Beck 25).
According to Robert Beck (26) in 2008, the government of Pennsylvania issued a press release that measures to ensure that economic benefits from extraction of Marcellus shale did not accrue at the expense of the natural resources in the country.
The responsibility to implement this order was given to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In addition to this, the Marcellus Drilling operators must submit their well permit applications, plus an additional Permit Application Addendum to DEP.
Robert Beck (26) continues to state that Pennsylvania’s general erosion and sediment control plan requires that every operator must prepare and implement a control to control erosion and sediment on well sites where earth disturbance will occur on less than five acres of earth.
The law requires the establishment of standards for wastewater. As a result, treatment and re-entry is used for disposal of excess wastewater in Pennsylvania.
According to Blackburn (39) the theory of Deontological ethics which explores who owns the rights, what is required by justice, and what duty means can be used in this case.
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Therefore, under this ethical theory the laws concerning drilling of Marcellus can be used to ensure that company owners carry the duty to protect the environment, and that the rights of property owners are not violated by state laws. This will ensure an operating environment that is fair and reasonable.
Blackburn, Simon. Being Good: An Introduction to Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.
Beck, Robert E. “Current Water Issues in Oil and Gas Development and Production: Will Water Control What Energy We Have?” Washburn Law Journal 49(2010): 423-455. Print.