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New Panel Seeks PA Public Input on Marcellus Shale Drilling

September 6, 2011

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A new commission made up of environmental and civic groups in Pennsylvania is on the road to find out what Pennsylvanians around the state think of drilling and development of the Marcellus Shale, a vast geological formation holding oil and gas deep underground.

The new group is called the Citizens' Marcellus Shale Commission. Co-chair Dan Surra, a former state representative from Elk County, says its mission is to hold public meetings in places where more people can have their say than was the case when Governor Tom Corbett held recent hearings on the same topic in Harrisburg.

"The citizens are still paying for the sins of the mining industry and, hopefully, the input of the people of Pennsylvania can make some positive change as far as what our legislators develop, you know, on the policy end."

Carole Rubley is the other commission co-chair and also a former state representative. She says commission members have a variety of different views on Marcellus Shale drilling, but at these hearings, they're leaving their politics at the door.

"We are operating these hearings in a fair and unbiased way. People that are 'pro' are welcome to come and speak about that also. This can be done correctly if the momentum is put in that direction."

Dan Surra says the commission will also seek out specific information on some of the unintended consequences of natural gas extraction.

"I really want to look into some of the health impacts, it seems, on some families and farmers and their livestock. I mean, I don't know if there's any validity to it or not, but it certainly warrants looking into."

The commission has held one public hearing so far, in southwestern Pennsylvania, with more planned in the southeast, northeast and in Harrisburg. Surra says Governor Corbett's commission did some good work, but was heavy on industry representation. He thinks the Citizens' Marcellus Shale Commission will help fill in some gaps.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA