New citizens group debates gas drilling


New citizens group debates gas drilling



Posted 06 September 2011, by Deana Carpenter, The Almanac (Observer Publishing Company),



 The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission, a group organized as an alternative to Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Committee, held the first of five meetings Aug. 31 at South Fayette Middle School. More than 100 attended the meeting, which lasted more than three hours.“The Marcellus Shale play is a very, very big thing,” said Dan Surra, a former state representative from Elk County, and co-chairman of the committee. He said that the governor’s advisory committee met and produced a report, but “many felt the governor’s committee didn’t tell the entire story.”

Surra said he and former state representative and committee co-chair Carole Rubley wanted to assemble a panel of experts in their fields as well as accept public comment for a report the committee will submit to the governor in the fall.

The committee, which includes representatives from several environmental groups and universities as well as the League of Women Voters, heard testimony from Ned Mulchay, executive director of Three Rivers Waterkeeper; Joe Osborne, legal director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP); Deron Gabriel, South Fayette Township Commissioner; and Pam Judy, a Greene County resident whose home is located near a compressor station.

Mulchay talked about the issue of waste water at drilling sites, saying while companies do disclose the chemicals in the water used for fracturing the wells, “the mixture of the water is unknown.” Mulcahy said sometimes chemicals that were part of the actual shale can get into the frack water, in addition to the chemicals used for fracking. He said as the well generates waste water, “It’s left to sit in open pits.”


Mulchay said chemicals can change with each drill site, and said “the concentration of the recipe is not (disclosed).” He said chemicals are then allowed to end up in surface water. “Current treatment facilities don’t likely remove all the chemicals,” Mulchay said.Deron Gabriel, a commissioner in South Fayette Township spoke about the issues facing municipalities who are trying to come up with rules to regulate Marcellus Shale drilling. South Fayette passed a strict ordinance last November, banning drilling in residential and conservation zoning districts. That ordinance is now being challenged by Range Resources.

Gabriel said at the meeting that Marcellus shale drilling is a “very heavy, industrial activity,” and the township passed the ordinance after hearing consistent testimony from “100s of residents.” He added many municipalities are looking at the challenge by Range Resources as a “test case.” As for the ordinance, Gabriel said, “We still feel we’re acting in our best interest.”

Greene County resident Pam Judy spoke about what it’s like to live near a compressor station, saying she has a first-hand account of “why I believe local governing bodies must regulate (the industry).” Judy said she lives about 780 feet from a compressor station and is down-wind from the station. She said that she and her family have smelled a kerosene-like smell as well as experienced sore throats, nose bleeds, dizziness and vomiting. She said if left unregulated at local levels, “the industry will leave a path of destruction.”

Citizens were also allowed to make testimony to the commission and that portion of the meeting lasted more than two hours, with several residents of South Fayette and the surrounding area, including Westmoreland and Butler counties, speaking for their allotted three to four minutes. Most spoke overwhelmingly in favor of stricter regulations on the oil and gas industry.

“Pennsylvania needs to slow down shale gas and support local oversight,” said Cynthia Walter, who was in favor of local communities having the right to set limits on drilling.

Keith Mcdonough, of the Friends of South Fayette organization, said the township is now faced with another battle with the challenge from Range Resources. “The industry has decided to make (South Fayette) a test case, he said. “How do we fund this fight?” He added, “If we don’t have the funding to fight this, it would be a sin.”

Lisa Malosh of South Fayette said she thought the meeting was very informative and helpful. She added that from what she heard at the meeting it was clear that not enough research has been done to say there are no long-term health effects from drilling.

The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission will hold four additional meetings across the state. The commission will meet Sept. 6 in Philadelphia; Sept. 13 in Williamsport; Sept. 14 in Wysox; and the week of Sept. 18 in Harrisburg. The meetings, including the one in South Fayette, are sponsored by Clean Water Action, the CLEAR Coalition, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, Keystone Progress, Penn Environment, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, The Pennsylvania League of Women Voters and the Pennsylvania Sierra Club.

Related articles:

Sides face off on gas impact fees

Cable network to videotape Marcellus Co-op hearing

Pipeline safety expert urges residents to be proactive

PT to vote on gas drilling ban

LWV to host Marcellus speaker





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