Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Marcellus Shale Hearing Tomorrow

Allegheny County Council is hosting a public hearing on drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Gold Room on the fourth floor of the County Courthouse.

County Council President Rich Fitzgerald expects to hear from drilling companies, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, environmental groups, and labor unions in this comprehensive hearing to explore the pros and cons for the county and the region. Although the DEP is charged with regulating drilling, there are local impacts on roads and, possibly, public health.

Fitzgerald says the county owns 30- to 40,000 acres of land and is always looking for revenues to offset property tax. One future possibility is to lease 20,000 acres at the airport for Marcellus Shale drilling.

Some municipalities, like North Fayette Township, have leased only horizontal access to their gas, allowing no equipment or roads on their land. Fitzgerald says this means less disturbance but also lower revenues.

The documentary movie, "Gasland", that highlights contamination of water supplies where drilling has taken place, has raised many questions about environmental impact, according to Fitzgerald.

Three major drilling companies have their headquarters in Allegheny County and will be at the hearing: EQT, Consol Energy, and Atlas Energy.

Fitzgerald expects environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Penn Future, and GASP to ask tough questions of the DEP and the gas industry.

Job creation will be looked into, says Fitzgerald, and trade unions will be represented: the IBEW, operating engineers, carpenter engineers, and allied trades.

Fitzgerald says one hearing may not be enough to cover all the issues in depth.

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