Senate committee approves shale gas health bill

  • Susan Phillips
Edna Moten says nearby gas drilling has polluted her water and air.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Edna Moten says nearby gas drilling in Washington County has polluted her water and air.

A bill to create a Marcellus Shale health advisory panel, which never made it out of committee last year, was approved by the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee unanimously today.  Senate Bill 375, introduced by Senate Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R-Jefferson), would create a nine-member panel to advise the legislature on the health impacts of shale gas production. The board would be chaired by the state’s health secretary, and include the head of the Department of Environmental Protection. The General Assembly would appoint seven advisors, who would be required to have an expertise in either public health, earth and mineral sciences, environmental studies, shale gas extraction or the use of natural gas.

All members of the bipartisan committee voted in favor of the bill.

The panel would meet at least twice a year and review health data related to shale gas drilling, consult with researchers and submit an annual report on their activities.

In 2011, former Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommended that the state monitor public health impacts from drilling, however the legislature never allocated funding for it.

Last June StateImpact Pennsylvania reported on allegations by two former state health workers who said they were instructed to ignore public complaints about drilling. In response, the Department of Health changed its Marcellus Shale policies.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the vote was nearly unanimous. It was unanimous among all the members of the committee not on leave.