Aerial of PA fracking site

An aerial view of a natural gas fracking well in Pennsylvania. About 12,400 wells have been sunk on public and private land in Pennsylvania since drilling into Marcellus Shale began in 2008. (PA Department of Environmental Protection)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted a Pennsylvania state representative to seek legislation to increase fracking for natural gas.

Republican Rep. Seth Grove, chair of the State Government Committee, said he will introduce a bill in March to pump up gas production, reform the drilling permitting process and provide funding for more gas pipelines — all aimed at helping Pennsylvania produce more natural gas for distribution at home and abroad.

“Now is not the time to hinder our natural gas industry. Rather, we must increase it to further secure our energy sector and decrease, if not zero out completely, Americans’ reliance on foreign gas,” Grove said in a press release.

The impending bill comes amid a war of words between Pennsylvania politicians, natural gas advocates and environmental groups over whether the state should produce more natural gas in the interest of national energy security.

The exchange began after Republican legislators who back the controversial production of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region cited a patriotic duty to “invest in freedom” and produce more gas to help offset the decrease in the natural gas supply from Russia due to sanctions.

In a slew of press releases, 15 Republican leaders in the state House and Senate called on Gov. Tom Wolf to loosen environmental restrictions, cut taxes on drillers, allow more pipelines and open up more state land for drilling.

“Seeing the Russia and Ukraine atrocity makes it so vividly clear that we need to focus on accessing domestic energy sources. Pennsylvania is blessed to sit atop an abundant amount of clean-burning natural gas and we need to focus on getting that to market,” House Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican from western Pennsylvania, said in one of the releases.

Wolf countered by accusing Republicans of politicizing a tragedy to increase profits of the natural gas industry while standing in the way of actions that would help address climate change by reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

In their responses to Metcalfe, Wolf and environmental groups said that gas drillers in Pennsylvania have not used 40% of the wells for which they hold permits, that the U.S. is a net exporter of natural gas and that the country receives virtually no natural gas from Russia.

Environmental groups argued that the Ukraine war is further proof that the nation needs to seek energy independence through renewable energy.

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Ad Crable is a Bay Journal staff writer based in Pennsylvania. Contact him at 717-341-7270 or acrable@bayjournal.com.

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