Last updated: February 17. 2013 2:11AM - 197 Views

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WILKES-BARRE â?? The environmental advocacy group PennEnvironment Policy & Research Center Thursday called for the halt of hydraulic fracturing by natural gas drillers in the state until they can provide long-term coverage of the costs associated with the â??dirty drillingâ? practice.

With the Susquehanna River as a backdrop, PennEnvironmentâ??s Lacey Vogel held a sparsely attended press conference on the River Common recreation area to detail the centerâ??s report, â??The Costs of Fracking.â?

The report attributed not only physical damage to the air, land and water, but also linking pollution with health risks from the unconventional drilling used to extract natural gas from shale formations deep underground.

The release of the report leads up to the hearing next month before the state Supreme Court on whether municipalities can apply local zoning control over shale gas drilling or adopt statewide zoning provisions that the PennEnvironment said would allow drilling in residential areas.

â??Our message today is clear,â? said Vogel, a preservation associate with the center told two newspaper reporters and two photographers.

â??The environmental damage is bad enough, but as it turns out the dirty drilling imposes heavy dollar and cents costs as well and if we donâ??t take action the public will be left holding the bag for these costs.â?

Decades after coal mines closed acid mine water drains into creeks, streams and rivers and gas drillers will follow that lead unless they are forced to pay upfront to insure against leaving a legacy of damage, she contended.

â??Weâ??re calling for a halt until â?ť gas companies can cover all costs associated with gas drilling from health care costs to infrastructural costs to costs down the road decades from now years for now,â? Vogel said.

The 43-page report cited facts and figures related to the drilling in Pennsylvania and other states:

â?˘ Cabot Oil & Gas spent $109,000 on methane removal systems for 14 households in Dimock, Susquehanna County, as a result of drilling-related contamination of groundwater supplies.

â?˘ A 2010 study showed a decrease between 3 and 14 percent in the value of a $250,000 house in Texas located within 1,000 feet of a well site.

â?˘ Air pollution from gas drilling in the Arkansas Fayetteville Shale region imposed more than $10 million in public health costs in 2008

â?˘ In Colorado and New Mexico, between 1.2 and 1.8 percent of all gas drilling projects result in groundwater contamination

â?˘ Texas convened a task force to review the impact of drilling on local roads and approved $40 million for road repairs in the Barnett Shale region.

The report distributed in a number of states contained cherry-picked information by the center to get its anti-drilling message across, said John Krohn, a spokesman for the petroleum industry group Energy in Depth.

There was no mention of the millions of dollars Chesapeake Energy invested in roads in Pennsylvania, Krohn said.

â??This is an airdrop study based on bad science and in some cases disproved accusations designed to obfuscate the dialogue on Marcellus Shale development,â? he said.

The reportâ??s contained â??unfounded criticismsâ? of Marcellus development including its impact on water, Krohn said.

â??The very first example they use to indicate water contamination is Dimock, Pa. where the EPA literally just declared oil and natural gas operations didnâ??t contaminate the townâ??s water supply as some, including PennEnvironment, have claimed.â?

In May the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said tests did not show unsafe levels of contamination in wells as a result of drilling in contrast to claims of residents.

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