PA Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Members Tied to Drilling Violations

Some members of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission are employed by energy companies that racked up nearly half of the natural gas drilling violations in the state last year. A report from the group Clean Water Action also found that gas-industry companies represented on the commission gave Corbett $790,950 in campaign contributions during his successful run for governor.

Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale has experienced a natural gas drilling boom in recent years, largely thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking, which involves pushing a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals into the earth at high pressure, allows drillers to tap shale gas deposits once thought inaccessible. As of today, nearly 3,000 wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale.

According to the Clean Water Action report, gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale resulted in over 1,200 violations of Pennsylvania environmental rules last year. Over 1 well in 6 in Pennsylvania had violations, including illegal dumping of toxic wastewater and failure to properly seal wells in order to protect drinking water supplies, the group said.

Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission has 31 members, 14 of whom come either from the gas industry or pro-business chambers of commerce, Clean Water Action said. According to the group, violations by companies connected to Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission members totaled 514.

Among the companies with employees on the commission, Chief Oil and Gas, which donated $100,000 to Corbett’s gubernatorial campaign, had the most violations, with 174. East Resource, with 74 violations, donated the most to the campaign – $411,000.

We’ve reported previously on Corbett’s cozy relationship with Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers. He is firmly opposed to any attempt to slap a gas-extraction tax on the industry, which means Pennsylvania will likely remain the largest gas-drilling state without such a tax. Earlier this month at a Convention for the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors during the Corbett denied opposing a tax on drilling because of the industry’s contributions to his campaign, claiming such a tax might limit job creation.

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