Environmental advocates are concerned by the number of drilling violations racked up by the energy companies serving on Governor Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Commission. Clean Water Action led a protest at today’s commission meeting to make that point, a day after releasing a report detailing more than 500 violations cited to energy companies on the panel in 2010.
But, in fact, Corbett did ask Chesapeake Energy’s representative to step down from the commission for just that reason.
When Corbett’s office announced the commission on March 8th, Chesapeake vice president Dave Spigelmyer was listed as one of its 30 members. According to four sources, Corbett asked him to withdraw from the panel after a February fire at a Chesapeake drilling site in Washington County injured three workers. Corbett advisers were worried the company’s violations would become a distraction, as the commission debates drilling policy.
Chesapeake, which currently operates 105 Marcellus Shale wells in Pennsylvania, racked up 132 violations in 2010, according to the Clean Water Action report. Last week, one of its Bradford County wells leaked tens of thousands of gallons of fracking fluid. The company has voluntarily halted hydraulic fracturing and other well completion activities at its Pennsylvania sites while it investigates the cause of the spill.
Chesapeake spokesman Matt Sheppard disputes the account of the people Pennsylvania Public Radio spoke with, who come from both inside and out of state government, emailing, “[Spigelmyer] stepped aside from the Marcellus Commission prior to the first meeting to focus on Chesapeake operations and his duties as vice chair of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.” Corbett’s office did not return calls for comment.