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Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission Makes Reccomendations

By Sari Heidenreich, Contributing Writer
Encouraging the state lawmakers to take a second look at the recommendations made by Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission yesterday released a report calling for a drilling tax, stricter regulations on the permitting process, and a drilling moratorium on state forest lands.

“The bottom line is [state lawmakers] are going to be dealing with the Marcellus Shale issue, and we made some great recommendations,” said Citizen Commission co-chairman Dan Surra. “We compliment, in some areas, what the Governor’s Commission said — and go farther but not too far. We need to slow this rush to drill down until [these recommendations are] implemented.”

The Citizens report was compiled by 16 commissioners, and former state representatives Dan Surra (D-Clearfield and Elk Counties)  and Carole Rubley (R-Chester and Montgomery Counties) who co-chaired the commission. Going a step further than the governor’s July report, the Citizens Commission recommended a drilling tax — rather than an impact fee — and called for a more comprehensive, transparent permitting process.

“End the privileged treatment of the gas industry,” the commission said in its report. “The policy of expedited permits should end immediately and DEP should stop issuing waivers or general permits that have the effect of circumventing or weakening environmental protections.”

The office of Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who oversaw Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, said they are aware of the recommendations but do not wish to comment at this time.

Noticeably missing from the list of contributors is Maya van Rossum, head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, who resigned from her post on the commission last Thursday contending that the final report was “politically palatable … rather than one which fully served to seek protections from known harms.”

By not recommending a drilling moratorium, Van Rossum said the commission “failed to give voice to the clear message” of citizen testimony and further accused the group of not properly publicizing the hearings “so as to ensure full participation by all citizens who wanted to speak.”

According to the commission, the report was created with input from 116 testifiers at hearings around the state and 110 online comments. Statewide environmental and political groups, such as the League of Women Voters and Clean Water Action also sponsored the report.

In response to van Rossum’s accusations, Surra said he felt the commissions report kept with the spirit of the testimony they heard.

“There was a really strong underlying message and theme that we heard from people: they didn’t feel that the state government had their back,” Sturra said. “They didn’t feel that DEP was looking out in their real interest — whether that’s real or perceived.”

Sturra stood by their decision not to recommend an outright moratorium saying it “gives our commission creditability.”

“We’re not just some far left ideological [group] that say, ya know, the moon is made out of cream cheese and apple pie or something,” he said. “It think it gives us credibility that we took a hard look at [the issue] … and we made solid recommendations on how to address those. We did call for an outright moratorium on public lands and a significant slow down it the permitting process.”

2 Responses

  1. We need to make water testing mandatory and frequent as part of the impact fee or drilling tax. If we don’t monitor our most precious resource we may loose it and have no one to hold accountable.

  2. unless they have the $$$ to outbid the drilling industry for the guv’s affections, it’s a hopeless cause. You know, health and welfare of citizens and our environment vs. campaign bucks-no contest…

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