Our opinion: The hearing had to be here

For 150 years, oil and gas production has been an important part of the economies of Warren, McKean and Crawford counties.

It has earned this region the Oil Patch nickname for good reason.

Long before OPEC, long before Texas and Oklahoma oilfields spouted their first gushers, and anyone thought there was something valuable below the surface of Alaska other than gold, the Pennsylvania Oil Patch was teaching America what could be done with petroleum.

You might even argue that it contributed significantly to the acceleration of the industrial revolution in America between 1870 and the turn of the century.

Even though those bobbing jacks have been sucking oil out of the ground for 150 years, there is still enough paraffin-based product selling for nearly $100 a barrel, to supply jobs to thousands in this region.

And, oil and gas production here is markedly different from the massive efforts to tap Marcellus Shale in other parts of the state. Referred to as traditional wells, which basically go straight down and are mostly operated by small, independent companies or families, they’re operation is financially more tenuous and physically different from the much-publicized Marcellus boom.

But, as with any energy production, from nuclear reaction to coal mining to wind generation, there are environmental and ecological concerns which must be considered. Ameliorating those concerns should not mean the end of a viable industry and the associated loss of employment and local income.

When the Environmental Quality Board of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources first scheduled its hearings on changes to environmental protection standards for all oil and natural gas production sites in the state, it dotted the map in a great arc that seemed to many to avoid the area of the original Oil Patch.

That was wrong, whether you are a staunch environmentalist or an oilman.

To its credit, the DEP added two hearing sites to its original slate at the request of state representatives Martin Causer of McKean County and Kathy Rapp of Warren County. One of those hearings was held in Warren Wednesday night, smack in the heart of the original Oil Patch. The EQB likely heard a lot of repetition in that testimony Wednesday from previous hearings, but it was only right to hold a hearing in the place most affected by the outcome.