The Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a Marcellus Shale Town Hall Meeting in Oakland on Thursday afternoon.
Head by State Senator Jim Ferlo, 6 Senate Members spent several hours hearing from natural gas industry executives, public safety officials and environmental advocates.
Ferlo said a primary concern of his is the Commonwealth’s 100 year old legacy of industrial capitalism as well as protecting the lucrative industries in the state such as agriculture, tourism and water.
Among the speakers was Conrad Dan Volz, the outgoing director of The Center for Healthy Environments and Community out of The University of Pittsburgh.
"We are essentially spending billions of dollars as a country to make our infrastructure not hard targets for terrorists. And here we are placing wells that explode, catch on fire and have serious blow-out problems within a stone’s throw from people’s homes," he said.
The meeting was interrupted by about a hundred protesters ranging in age from 5 to 93 years of age. They came from a variety of different groups, mostly teacher’s unions and the Pittsburgh Interfaith Network. They marched for several blocks through Oakland chanting, “Stop the Blasts, Tax Oil Gas!”
Protestors spoke about taxing the natural gas industry and using the money to offset the large financial deficits targeting education in the state budget. This came on the same day that speaking elsewhere, Governor Tom Corbett reportedly suggested universities facing financial problems could drill for natural gas on campuses.
They then opened up the meeting to public comment.
Ferlo has introduced two pieces of legislation concerning Marcellus Shale. One calls for a one year moratorium on expanded drilling and the other would establish higher fees for DEP Violations, improve well-site safety and would establish a severance tax that would return revenue to local communities.
Listen to a longer version of the story here.