Citizen's Marcellus Shale Commission Wants to Slow Down Drilling

  • Susan Phillips

A coalition of environmental and good government groups critical of Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling says the state has moved too fast, and it needs to slow down the Marcellus Shale boom. The Citizen’s Marcellus Shale Commission was created in response to Governor Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which released its own report in July. The Citizen’s Commission held five hearings across the state, where 400 people attended, and 116 participants gave testimony.
The report from the Citizen’s Commission includes 100 recommendations, which can be broken down into four categories — water, air and land contamination, the use of water to drill, protection of habitat, and the rights of landowners and communities.
One recommendation includes the elimination of the use of toxic chemicals in the production of natural gas. But the commissioners aren’t clear on which chemicals should be eliminated. The use of fracking to extract gas is controversial because water, sand and chemicals are shot down into wells at high pressure to release the gas. Commissioners say they worry about the disposal of flowback fluid, citing accidents where the resulting wastewater has spilled, contaminating surface land and water.
The Citizen’s Commission did not recommend a full blown moratorium on drilling in the state, which caused one commissioner to resign last week. Maya von Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network issued a statement that the failure to impose a moratorium ran counter to the bulk of the citizen testimony.
But Commissioner Dan Surra said the bulk of the testimony and opinions of the commissioners was not “overwhelmingly” in favor of a moratorium. Surra says the next step is to lobby lawmakers to enact the recommendations.

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