Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gas Representatives, Environmentalists Spar at Hearing

Allegheny County Council held a public hearing on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in the county last night.

Environmental groups like Clean Water Action and PennFuture spoke about the environmental downsides of drilling in Allegheny County while county energy companies such as Atlas Energy and Consol Energy touted the industry’s job-making capabilities.

County Council members addressed concern over three main areas: frack water pollution, jobs, and the health of county roads.

Carl Carlson of Range Resources says PennDOT has regulations requiring the industry to cover the costs of road damage inflicted by their vehicles.

Atlas Energy President Richard Weber says the industry would also bring jobs to the county, by both hiring Pennsylvania workers and bringing in experts from other states.

Clean Water Action Western Pennsylvania Director Tom Hoffman says he supports a statewide moratorium on Shale drilling so that the state has some “breathing room” to investigate safety and health issues. Hoffman pointed to a recent gas well blowout in Clearfield County that allowed thousands of gallons of chemically-treated frack water to leak into the surrounding environment. Hoffman also mentioned air pollution caused by the drilling, which he says is underestimated.

But Weber says a statewide moratorium on drilling would mean thousands of layoffs and a large loss of revenue for Pennsylvania.

Greg Vogt of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 5 says 500 of his union’s 7000 members are working on Marcellus Shale pipelines, but that number is declining due to increasing competition from out-of-state contractors. Vogt described the Marcellus Shale job outlook as a “mixed bag” for Pennsylvanians.

Gas company representatives faced a tough crowd, as they were booed, heckled, and even ridiculed over the course of the meeting.

No comments: