|Harrisburg, PA - In releasing its triennial performance audit of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) today, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) recommended that the General Assembly “consider providing additional resources to the PFBC so it can continue to make efforts to protect water resources from potential degradation by Marcellus Shale drilling efforts.”
The LBFC audit specifically cited results from PFBC and state Department of Environmental Protection inspections which showed environmental and water quality problems. “These statistics suggest that, in all likelihood, Pennsylvania will continue to experience high rates of environmental, health, and safety violations at Marcellus Shale drilling sites,” the LBFC reported. “Given this new threat, we recommend the General Assembly take action…to ensure the PFBC…has sufficient resources to carry out its mission.”
PFBC Executive Director John Arway, testifying before the committee this morning, reminded lawmakers that the Commission relies almost entirely on fishing license sales, boat registration fees, and federal funding tied to fishing and boating to support everything it does.
“This includes trying to keep pace and stay ahead of the current and projected impacts of energy development to fishing and boating recreation and on the resources the PFBC is mandated to protect,” said Mr. Arway. “If the Commission received a portion of a severance tax, we would be in a much better position to work with industry and other agencies to ensure that aquatic resources are protected during the planning, development, and production of the Marcellus Shale natural gas field.”
Bringing attention to the ongoing debate in Harrisburg, Mr. Arway asked the legislature to take advantage of the “historic opportunity to allocate a portion of the proceeds to conservation and to dedicate a part of its revenues to the Commission to protect the future health of our aquatic resources and the fishing and boating recreation they provide.”
The Marcellus Shale drilling industry has come into Pennsylvania in full force and has substantially increased the responsibilities of conservation agencies like the PFBC. Since 2001, the PFBC has tripled the number of oil and gas well permit reviews it conducts each year, and Mr. Arway said his staff are struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing volume. Within the past year, PFBC staff also have conducted approximately 175 field views of gas well sites and have observed water quality degradation from a number of these facilities.
“This limited field presence is completely inadequate if we are expected to live up to the charge given to us by the General Assembly in 1909 to enforce water pollution laws and – just as importantly – to work with other agencies and the industry to try to prevent problems before they occur," Mr. Arway said.
Referring to the Commission’s formal response found in the appendix of the audit, PFBC Board of Commissioners President William Worobec explained that “we must diversify our funding streams if we are going to meet the growing expectations being placed on the Commission as we implement our mission on behalf of all Pennsylvanians, visiting anglers and boaters, and our fragile natural resources.”
The LBFC’s audit is available online at http://lbfc.legis.state.pa.us.
The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at www.fishandboat.com.