Hydraulic fracturing has a friend in Pennsylvania. According to a report from the Standard Speaker, Governor-elect Tom Corbett has chosen several prominent lobbyists who represent Marcellus shale drilling firms to serve on a committee advising him on energy and environmental issues.
Pennsylvania, which sets atop the natural gas rich Marcellus shale, has become ground zero in the debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is a drilling technique that involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. Environmentalists are concerned that the chemicals used in that fracking fluid could contaminate water supplies near drilling sites, and already, such drilling is suspected in several instances of Pennsylvania water contamination.
Thanks to a move by Congress in 2005, fracking is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a result, the industry is not required to disclose the chemicals â€“ some of which are known to be hazardous – that make up their fracking fluids.
According to the Standard Speaker, Corbett has formed a committee to advise him on issues involving the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Public Utility Commission before he takes office in January. All of these agencies have a role in regulating Marcellus shale drilling in Pennsylvania.
Members of the 30-member panel include Peter Gleason of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Gates, who represents Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and Chesapeake Appalachia; Stanley Rapp with Greenlee Partners, who represents Range Resources-Appalachia, CNX Gas Corp., NextEra Energy Resources and PPL Corp.; and lobbyist Pam Witmer with Bravo Group, who represents Chief Oil and Gas, Chief Gathering LLC and RRI Energy.
As we’ve reported in the past, Governor-elect Corbett is a friend to the industry. His campaign received more than $1 million in donations from natural gas drillers, and now it looks like that money was well spent. He is firmly opposed to any attempt to slap a gas-extraction tax on the industry, which means Pennsylvania will remain the largest gas-drilling state without such a tax. He has also promised to lift an existing order that prevents further leasing of state lands to gas drillers. Governor-elect Corbett has even named Christine Toretti, a national GOP committeewoman and owner of a Pennsylvania drilling company, as co-chair of his transition team.