DEP Releases Air Quality Study and Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Update

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released study results on short-term air quality from Marcellus Shale drilling operations, but some question the usefulness of the study. The Allegheny Front's Ilana Yergin has more on this and an update from the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

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YERGIN: The DEP did air quality testing between August and December last year, downwind of four drilling operations in Northcentral Pennsylvania. Their analysis found low levels of methane, ethane, propane and butane - some of the main components of natural gas - as well as other compounds. DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said that emission levels found should not be quote "of concern to the health of residents living and working near these operations" end quote. The DEP also said the levels are consistent with air monitoring in other regions.

The DEP admitted that since the testing was done over a short period of time and with limited sampling, it cannot be used to study the cumulative impact of drilling on air quality. And Joseph Minott, the executive director of the Clean Air Council, said these results have limited use.

MINOTT: I think that we need to be really careful not to draw too many conclusions from the very limited short term sampling that DEP has done. Weíre still looking at the results but frankly it was done over such a short period of time that you canít draw any major conclusions from it.

YERGIN: In Harrisburg, Governor Tom Corbettís Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission had its third meeting on May 20. Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, debriefed the commission on the array of local ordinances regulating the drilling industry across the state. She argued that there should be clearer and more consistent regulation statewide. Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati's proposed impact fee touches on this issue. He would deny local governments part of the fee revenue if they have what he considers to be an excessively strict ordinance.

Kip Allen, a member of the commission and President of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, said that although it would be interesting to look at statewide regulation, he's uncertain of the practicality.

KIP ALLEN: It is a local zoning ordinance so I'm not too sure that one size always fits all as much as we we might like it to. There maybe could be some general guidelines that people should try to either adhere to or move in the direction of but as of right now I don't think they've been established.

YERGIN: The commission has two more scheduled meetings before the governor's July 22 deadline for a recommendation.

For the Allegheny Front, I'm Ilana Yergin.