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Corbett’s Marcellus Shale panel hears from anti-drilling crowd

April 28, 2011

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Commission met in the capitol city Wednesday to be briefed on some of the environmental impacts of unconventional natural gas drilling in the state.  The meeting was open to the public, yet the board room and discussions closed due to lack of space.

Conrad Dan Volz (Director and principal investigator, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities) spoke to protesters outside the DEP office building while the Marcellus Shale Commission met inside.

Outside the commission’s closed meeting room, citizen and environmental groups along with hundreds of protesters gathered to have their voices heard.  Until the public comment period arrived, protesters were either outside on the street, occupying the lobby of the building, or watching the meeting from an adjacent auditorium where it was broadcast in real time.

Selected excerpt from the Harrisburg Patriot News article “Protesters disrupt Marcellus meeting on environmental impacts of drilling“:

“As the meeting proceeded, anti-drilling activists in the audience regularly interrupted by speaking out of turn. The loudest were ejected by guards, the others simply annoyed those within earshot.

It was an organized and effective distraction from the topic at hand — scientific evidence of the environmental impact of drilling.”

One of many protest signs outside the Rachel Carson Office Building during the Marcellus Shale Commission meeting in Harrisburg PA.

Selected excerpts from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette article “Protesters disrupt Marcellus Shale commission meeting“:

“Anti-drilling protesters repeatedly disrupted the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission’s second meeting today, interrupting presentations and rallying loudly outside on concerns about potential gas-drilling dangers.

One concern voiced by many is the lack of inclusion of citizens groups on the advisory panel, which is gathering information on the oversight and impacts of drilling in the Marcellus Shale.”

“But Nathan Sooy of Clean Water Action, one of the groups that organized the protest, said [public comment is] not enough.

‘They need to hear from the people directly,’ he said. ‘If they can’t do that, they’re cowards’.”

Protesters outside the Rachel Carson Building where the DEP offices hosted a Marcellus Shale Commission meeting on potential environmental impacts.

Selected excerpts from The Morning Call Capitol Ideas Blog by John L. Micek “Environmentalists Picket Shale Commission Meeting“:

“Protesters covered both sides of Market Street in Harrisburg outside the Department of Environmental Protection’s headquarters. There, they waved signs reading ‘Stop Fracking Pennsylvania,’ and ‘Fracking Kills.’

They also chanted slogans, including ‘Frack is Whack,’ as cars beeped their horns in support.”

Former Mayor of Dish Texas Calvin Tillman spoke amidst protesters in Harrisburg on Wednesday.

So many concerned citizens took the time to come to Harrisburg on a Wednesday afternoon that the commission extended the comment period.  This allowed over 60 people to speak.

Selected excerpts from the Times Union article “Corbett’s Marcellus Shale panel gets earful“:

“The commission head, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, later extended the half-hour public comment period by an hour and a half so that many of the demonstrators could speak.

They did so — sometimes in angry, off-color terms that accused the industry of spreading pollution and illness and Corbett of being in league with money-hungry energy executives.”

“Charles Gerlach, who operates an organic farm and bed and breakfast in neighboring Bradford County close to the New York state line, said the heavy impact of drilling is driving some of his fellow farmers out and making him worry that his own business will suffer.

‘All around me, I see development and I see environmental damage, and I’m very concerned about it,’ Gerlach said.”

“Nadia Steinzor of the Washington, D.C.-based environmental advocacy group Earthworks, told the commission that it is losing public confidence because of the perceived focus on short-term gains in jobs and revenue, rather than the long-term impact on tourism, local government budgets, public health and the environment.

‘The main concern that I think many people have is nobody knows what the plan here is. … Twenty thousand wells? Fifty thousand wells? A hundred thousand wells?’ she said. ‘No one, no state agency, has ever done a cumulative impact analysis’.”

Protesters on the corner of Market Street in Harrisburg letting the Marcellus Shale Commission know they have a voice.

Sign after sign at the protest in Harrisburg relayed the message that citizens of Pennsylvania are deeply concerned.

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