Everyone knows by now the economic potential of natural gas drilling in our region due to the Marcellus Shale formations.
What a Senate Policy Committee heard at a hearing at the Pennsylvania College of Technology is that this economic bounty does not come with hard questions and dilemmas.
It's not just a matter of drilling holes in the ground.
While responsible operators to date have shown a willingness to repair damage to roads caused by heavy equipment, there is no plan in place to guarantee that, according to Lycoming County Commissioner Rebecca A. Burke, chairman of the state's first county Community Gas Exploration Task Force.
Without such guarantees, there is no protection against an operator ravaging the region's infrastructure.
Changes in the permitting process with the state Department of Environmental Protection are needed to cement the working relationship between the state's environmental watchdogs, the gas drilling operators, municipalities and landowners.
Commissioner Burke expressed concerns about DEP assuming control over soil and erosion matters formerly relegated to local conservation districts.
We share those concerns, mainly because our local conservation districts have handled these matters with intelligence and efficiency for generations.
DEP officials promised to use the eyes and ears of conservation districts as a help, but we would like to see greater involvement than that.
Everyone wants to see the Marcellus Shale economic potential realized.
It is a rare economic opportunity for landowners, the employment picture and municipality throughout the region.
But hard questions need to be answered to assure that municipalities and landowners are not regretful a generation from now.