State Representative Kathy Rapp, who represents Warren, Forest, and parts of McKean County, recently introduced legislation aimed at stripping the U.S. Forest Service of authority to regulate to protect the Allegheny National Forest from the impacts of oil and gas drilling. The legislation, HB 1904, attempts to limit the Forest Service from regulating virtually any aspect of oil and gas drilling on the Allegheny National Forest. Additionally, the legislation is aimed at prohibiting the Forest Service from regulating consumptive use of water withdrawals of millions of gallons of fresh potable water from aquifers and springs and clean water from streams for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The Marcellus Shale gas drilling process contaminates the fresh water used for fracking, creating wastewater highly contaminated with toxic chemicals, heavy metals, radioactive contaminants, and total dissolved solids.
The Allegheny Defense Project claims that Rep. Rapp is using her position in government to promote a company that she benefits from financially even though that company has a track record of violating environmental laws. According to an April 4, 2011 statement of financial interests, Rep. Rapp disclosed that she receives income not only from her job as a state representative but also from EXCO Resources, an oil and gas company that drilled approximately 40 Marcellus Shale gas wells in Pennsylvania in 2011 according to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection.
“HB 1904 would pave the way for more drilling in the Allegheny National Forest with less environmental oversight,” said Cathy Pedler, forest watch coordinator for the Allegheny Defense Project. “If EXCO is drilling or plans to drill wells in the Allegheny National Forest, Rep. Rapp stands to benefit financially. That is a major conflict of interest.”
Allegheny Defense Project points to a recent consent agreement to highlight EXCO’s track record of environmental compliance. EXCO recently entered into a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violations of its underground injection control program permit and the Safe Drinking Water Act at an injection well site in western Pennsylvania.1 According to the EPA, although EXCO discovered that its Irvin A-19 underground injection well had failed mechanical integrity, it continued injecting brine into the well instead of immediately ceasing operations and notifying the EPA. According to the consent agreement, EXCO is required to pay a penalty of $159,624.
“Why is Rep. Rapp benefitting financially from a company that has ignored environmental laws,” said Bill Belitskus, board president of the Allegheny Defense Project. “I want to know why Rep. Rapp is wasting my tax dollars to make it easier for the oil and gas industry to avoid environmental laws to drill in the Allegheny National Forest, degrading air and water quality and wildlife habitat to turn it into an industrial wasteland.”
1 Woods, Josh. “EPA enters into agreement with EXCO Resources.” The Progress 29 Dec. 2011.