Environmentalists wary of shale commission

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s new Marcellus Shale Commission leaves some environmental advocates cold.

    During his Tuesday budget address, Corbett announced a 30-member panel aimed at drafting drilling policies. The commission, headed by Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, will “oversee how we can build around this new industry and how we can make certain we do this while protecting our lands, our drinking water, our air, and our communities, all the while growing our workforce,” according to Corbett.

    Erika Staaf, clean water advocate for the environmental group PennEnvironment, said the new commission seems like a stalling tactic.

    “We know what … is needed to address the problems and the dangers related to Marcellus Shale gas drilling. We know what the regulations are that need to be updated,” she said. “Legislators have already drafted countless pieces of legislation to address Marcellus Shale gas drilling, and the updates for regulations.”

    Staaf is also upset a third of the commission is made up of people with ties to the drilling industry. Representatives from Range Resources, Exxon, Chesapeake and other energy companies will sit on the panel, as will former energy executive Terry Pegula, whose family donated $280,000 to Corbett’s gubernatorial campaign.

    State and county-level government officials are also on the commission, as are a few environmentalists. “Really, the deck is stacked against them,” said Staaf. “There’s a handful of environmental groups, but when it comes down to a vote with only 15 to 20 percent being from the environmental community, it doesn’t sound like they have much of a voice on this panel.”

    Corbett wants the commission to issue its report within 120 days.

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