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Environment, Jobs Both Key in Marcellus Shale Development, Cawley Says

on March 23, 2011 11:14 AM

BELLEFONTE -- The recently formed Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission will be "open to all points of view," Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley said Tuesday in Centre County.

"We are not interested in just one point of view in order to make informed decisions" on natural-gas policy recommendations, Cawley said.

He said "job creation is an important component of an economic-development" approach in the gas industry. "But equally as important is maintaining our environmental integrity in this state."

Gov. Tom Corbett has appointed the lieutenant governor to lead the advisory commission, which will take four months to develop a "blueprint" chronicling the natural-gas industry's economic-development potential and related public-safety and -health issues, Cawley said.

He said the governor is expecting to receive policy recommendations from the commission this summer.

The panel has faced criticism for including a number of energy-company executives and political-campaign contributors. But the "construction of the commission isn't as important as the fact" that it will be open to all perspectives, Cawley said Tuesday.

He arrived in Bellefonte in the morning to meet with the Centre County Natural Gas Task Force and local county commissioners -- including those from neighboring Clinton County. At a press conference afterward, Cawley said the group discussed opportunities and challenges of the Marcellus Shale gas boom.

Such regional conversations are key as the advisory commission learns about nuances of the gas-drilling boom statewide, Cawley said.

He reiterated that gas development promises "indisputable job creation." He said the state needs "an eye toward that careful balance between making sure we maximize that development opportunity but also make sure we're good stewards of the environment."

Centre County commissioners Chairman Jon Eich said protecting groundwater, surface water and public-transportation systems will be a priority as the county sees dramatic growth in drilling.

Similarly, Clinton County commissioners Chairman Adam Coleman said his county is "trying to find out the impacts on the local municipalities" from large-scale gas drilling. He encouraged a state-government emphasis on that front, too.

Nine Marcellus Shale gas wells were drilled in Centre County in 2009, according to county data. As of early 2010, more than 100 others were already being planned in the county, government documents show.

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