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Casey urges strict inspections of drilling companies

Admits gains to local economy

By TOM KANE

SCRANTON, PA — While saying that gas exploration will be a significant boon for the state’s economy, Senator Robert Casey warned that the industry must be watched closely.

Casey reminded the audience at Marywood University’s Forum on Marcellus Shale: Opportunities and Challenges on August 18 that the state constitution gave the right to the citizens to have clean air and clean water. He also said over 70 percent of gas industry workers are from out of state. “I will work to promote training programs at local schools and colleges to train Pennsylvania residents for the industry,” he said.

Casey told the audience that immediately after the forum, he was visiting Clearfield County where a gas-drilling site had a blow-out.

“It wasn’t an explosion but a serious emergency incident, which should not have happened,” Casey said. “For 16 hours, 35,000 gallons of chemicals were shot into the sky. This and other things like it must not happen again.”

Casey reminded the audience that the nation had experienced a gold rush and then a coal rush. “We are now at the beginning of a natural gas rush,” he said.

In an interview with the press following his presentation, Casey said that the new legislation on fracking would demand full disclosure of the chemical content of the drilling fluids.

“We, at the federal level, are putting pressure on the industry to disclose the chemicals and it’s working,” he said. “A few months ago, that didn’t seem possible but because pressure was being put on the companies, we got that measure included. People have to continue that pressure.”

Commenting on the charge that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t enough inspectors to handle over 2,000 wells and an eventual 4,000 by the end of next year, Casey said that the state has to slow down issuing permits.

“This industry is growing at a very rapid pace,” Casey said. “It is the state’s obligation to keep up with this growth.”

Casey addressed the question that gas companies were spending considerable millions on the campaigns of Congress members in order to influence legislation. “We are working to put in regulations that would disclose where companies are putting their money and how much,” he said. “Disclosure will be a big help in controlling this trend.”

The other speakers at the forum were: Kathryn Zuberbuhler Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition; Timothy Kelsey, professor of agriculture economics at Penn State University; John Quigley, secretary of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Jennifer Hoffman, monitoring and assessment program manager of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission; and Jeanne Vanbriensen of Carnegie Mellon University.

TRR photo by Tom Kane
Senator Robert Casey (Click for larger version)