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Business and industry representatives outnumber environmental advocates by more than 3 to 1 on the governor’s new 30-member Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. The commission, which will meet for the first time Friday, is supposed to supply Gov. Tom Corbett a blueprint on how to maximize the potential of natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale while still being good environmental stewards.
Yet the balance of interests on the commission is tipped heavily in favor of the drilling industry, critics say, at a time when concern over the environmental impacts of drilling is higher than ever. The governor’s commission has 13 representatives from business and industry, while four come from environmental and conservation groups.
Corbett — saying he wants to make Pennsylvania the Texas of the natural gas boom — calls for a “friction-free process” whenever the government interacts with “job creators.” What’s more, he gives new powers to the Secretary of Community and Economic Development “to expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.” That would give C. Alan Walker, a former coal executive, the power to override Environmental Protection and other agencies if he thinks they are slowing Marcellus expansion.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who took office less than six weeks ago, received nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from the gas industry. Insisting that that will not influence policy decisions, Corbett pledged during his campaign to oppose any tax on Marcellus Shale production and has said he supports the expansion of drilling on state forest lands
Irresponsible energy development in the Rocky Mountain West is also taking a toll on public wild lands, which provide vital wildlife habitat and are a source of pure air and clean drinking water. These irreplaceable ecological resources are threatened by air pollution, habitat destruction and water contamination caused by the recent expansion of natural gas drilling.More than 25 million acres of wildlife habitat in the West have been leased by the Bureau of Land Management, and could potentially be opened to drilling. In one area of Wyoming, as drilling activity increased, mule deer numbers declined by 30 percent from 2000 to 2007.
Fracking is a suspect in polluted drinking water in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, where residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations.
The 30-member commission is stacked with 13 business and industry representatives compared to only four environmental members.
For example, C. Alan Walker, current head of the Department of Community and Economic Development, is a former coal executive. The state had to go after Walker and his company in order to get it to follow the law and clean up more than 150 million gallons of polluted water from mines it owned.This is the same C. Alan Walker the governor proposes to give the power to “expedite any permit or action” at the Department of Environmental Protection, the state’s main watchdog. So much for any confidence that there are checks and balances on this growing shale drilling industry.
Chemicals Tested & Found - 5 CHEMICALS IN BOLD WERE ABOVE HEALTH LIMIT
chemical found what it causes
Total haloacetic acids (HAAs) Cancer
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) Cancer
Radium-228 Organ System Toxicity
Nitrate Organ System Toxicity
Barium (total) Biochemical or Cellular Level Changes, Cancer, Developmental/Reproductive Toxicity, Ecotoxicology, Neurotoxicity, Occupational Hazards, Organ System Toxicity, Persistence and bioaccumulation
Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley opened the first meeting of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Friday with an idyllic vision of what Pennsylvania could become in 20 or 30 years “if we make the right decisions today.”
“Brain-drain” and “rust belt” would be phrases of the past. “Tens of thousands” of people would be working in the natural gas industry, “and thousands more working in related industries like water purification.” There would be “open spaces and family farms that have passed from generation to generation because foreclosure was avoided today.”
Even the environmental members of the commission echoed those sentiments. With one exeption. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation stepped up with a list of specific environmental concerns that made many of the polite smiles around the table go thin. “CBF would like to draw attention to the fact that Pennsylvania’s recently crafted Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load does not currently account for the cumulative increases in the nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment loads generated by the natural gas industry, an omission that will need to be addressed,” said staff attorney LeeAnn Murray. “CBF also notes that DEP currently reviews permits for gas extraction on a permit by permit basis without viewing the potential comprehensive cumulative impacts resulting from increases in sediment loads from erosion and post-construction runoff from roads, wellpads, pipelines and other infrastructure.” “It is issues like these that we believe may have an impact on water quality,” she said, “and with recent scientific studies indicating that water quality is affected by gas extraction activities we hope to discuss methods of reducing such impacts.”
When asked if there would be an opportunity for the public to at least observe or listen to the meetings of the working groups, Cawley said, “I’m sure.”
On March 23, Corbett’s Department of Environmental Protection issued an email edict to staffers: No environmental violations against drillers could be issued without the personal approval of DEP Secretary Michael Krancer.