MSC op-ed in the Pittsburgh Business Times: Marcellus Shale commission recommendations a road map to getting it right

by Kathryn Z. Klaber
Date: Friday, July 29, 2011

If Pennsylvania’s deep history has taught us anything, it’s that compromise is crucial, particularly in the public policy arena. Nearly 225 years ago in Philadelphia, the “Great Compromise of 1787” was struck during the Constitutional Convention, ensuring that all states — irrespective of population — had an equal voice in the Senate. And while the “Great Compromise” was hatched in 1787 — the same year Pennsylvania followed Delaware into statehood — the art of compromise indeed remains critical.

Last week, the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission — a diverse panel of stakeholders and experts assembled by Gov. Tom Corbett — issued a sweeping set of recommendations on how best to move forward with responsible shale gas development in the state.

Totaling some 137 pages, and outlining 96 policy recommendations — nearly half of which address environmental, health and safety policies — the unanimously approved report serves as an important step in further strengthening the regulatory framework to safely leverage the Marcellus Shale’s abundant, clean-burning natural gas reserves. With action by the General Assembly and other decision-makers, these recommendations can bolster what are already considered some of the most forward-leaning oil and natural gas policies in the nation.

While some of these recommendations may increase the cost of producing natural gas, our industry believes that collectively they strike a common sense balance. A true compromise that, if implemented properly, can help further ensure that our environment — above all — is preserved and protected for the next generation.

Here are key recommendations:

  • Offering additional protection to the state’s water supply, the commission recommends increasing the minimum setback distance from 200 feet to 500 feet from private water wells and 1,000 feet for public water supplies. It’s a common sense proposal we support.
  • We also support the recommendation to give the Department of Environmental Protection authority to require Water Management Plans, designed to protect the ecological health of water resources.
  • We recognize that with the tremendous financial benefits our host communities enjoy, there are local impacts, albeit short-term in most cases. Providing these communities with additional resources to address these impacts is a policy that we support. Additionally, providing regulatory certainty across municipalities provides a framework to enable the most environmentally and economically responsible means for natural gas production.
  • The sharing of best management practices between state regulators and the industry, is a policy we put forth under Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration, and one that will continue as this administration continues to strengthen the regulatory framework to ensure natural gas development continues in an environmentally responsible manner.

This is a snapshot of the many recommendations put forth by the multi-stakeholder commission in their report to Corbett last week. Others aim to strengthen pipeline safety requirements.

We understand the scope of this opportunity and, as outlined by the commission’s report, value the importance of working with key stakeholders to make certain we get this historic opportunity right. There is, of course, no room for compromise on that principle.

Klaber is the president and executive director of the Canonsburg-based Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC). Visit www.MarcellusCoalition.org to learn more.

NOTE: Click HERE to read this op-ed online.