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Experts address Marcellus Shale drilling

By Will Dodds
On March 15, 2012

  • Kent Moors, a political science professor, discusses Act 13’s environmental provisions during the Regulating Marcellus Shale discussion in the Power Center Ballroom Tuesday. Pat Thompson / The Duquesne Duke

Duquesne's Law School addressed controversy surrounding Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania during a panel discussion in the Power Center Ballroom Tuesday afternoon.

The conference, titled Regulating Marcellus Shale: What's the Impact of the Impact Fee?, featured a panel of four speakers who gave reactions to the Pennsylvania House's Feb. 8 passing of a law that will subject Marcellus Shale Gas wells in the state to an annual $50,000 fee per well beginning in September.

The speakers agreed that the law, Act 13, does little to address the overarching environmental concerns of Marcellus Shale drilling and outlined protection of the state's water supply and natural resources, and spill containment, among other things, as the key discussion issues.

Panelist John Quigley, strategic advisor of PennFuture, a state environmental advocacy organization, spoke out strongly against Act 13.

"I think there is a win-win for Marcellus Shale drilling," Quigley said. "But in my humble opinion, Act 13 does not get it close."

Act 13 gives individual counties the option to impose an impact tax on Marcellus Shale drilling wells located within their boundaries. All funds generated by the tax will be directed toward state agencies and used to cover the local impacts of drilling.

If the county government chooses not to impose the tax, smaller municipalities can enact it with at least a 50 percent vote from local government, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's web site.

We've privatized the [economic] profit and publicized the [environmental] cost. We're defunding conservation and subsidizing the clean-up of these lands. It gives a terrible precedent that we can burn the furniture to heat the house," Quigley said.

Panelist Kent Moors, a Duquesne political science professor, presented an argument for strengthened environmental regulations on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

"Of all the states with significant natural gas drilling, we're the only one that does not have an effective tax at the wellhead," Moors said.

Moors said the impact tax is problematic because it is arranged politically and does not demand environment stewardship on behalf the drilling companies.

Panelist Nick J. Deluliis, president of Consol Energy, which has the rights to 750,000 acres of Marcellus Shale, stressed the value of his company to the local economy. According to Deluliis, Consol, headquartered in Cecil, Pa., employs 9,000 workers and has 5,000 contractors.

"The access to light and electricity is a basic human right, and this company produces energy that keeps the lights on at Wall Street," Deluliis said.



 
 


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