As industry gathers in Philadelphia, activists urge caution at citizen’s shale hearing

    Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has yet to say much about the recommendations in the report issued by his Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission a month and a half ago. But a coalition of environmental groups is already gathering testimony for a new report aimed at his desk.

    The group, called the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission, held a public hearing at the Free Library in Philadelphia Tuesday night. The refrain of many speakers there, mostly representing area environmental groups: slow down. Enact a moratorium or curb new permits until more is know about the environmental and health effects of hydraulic fracturing.

    “We’d love to see the peer-reviewed studies, but we believe in the precautionary principle,” said Jerry Silberman, who spoke on behalf of PASNAP, a Pennsylvania nurses union that has called for a moratorium. “We know what these chemicals do, we need to not have fracking unless there is no impact, and no release of any of these chemicals in the environment.”

    As universal a cry: more regulation, regarding everything from limiting drilling in state forests to strengthening storm-water management plans to mandating uniform pre-drilling testing of private wells.

    Pennsylvania State Representative Gregory Vitali from Delaware County applauded activists there pushing for a severance tax and stricter environmental regulations.

    He said the most important tool they have at their disposal is the 2012 election.

    “I think politicians know that if the citizens are paying attention, that if they go into this election cycle having slashed basic ed. by a billion dollars and higher ed. and health-care, and let the drillers go scot-free and don’t deal with these issues, there’s going to be a price to pay,” Vitali said.

    The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission is holding five hearings around the state and will compile its findings in a report to deliver to the Governor as an alternative to his official Marcellus Shale Commission report.

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