Hearing was 'ban fracking now!' vs. 'drill, baby, drill!'
Natural gas drilling opponents urged a Department of Energy panel that met Monday night in gas-rich Washington County to recommend a ban on hydraulic shale fracturing.
But the newly formed Natural Gas Subcommittee was not there to consider a ban.
Instead, its members asked the public for recommendations it could offer to federal regulators that would ensure Marcellus shale gas extraction in Pennsylvania won't contaminate air or drinking water.
"It's important for the country, but it's also important that it be done properly and that it be done safely," said Chairman John Deutch, a chemist and board member of Cheniere Energy Inc., which plans to export natural gas.
Protesters who chanted, "Save Pennsylvania, ban fracking now," were met with boos and shouts of "drill, baby, drill" from drilling supporters who sat shoulder to shoulder with opponents in a Washington & Jefferson College auditorium packed with hundreds of people toting pro- and anti-drilling signs.
More than 90 people signed up to speak to the subcommittee. Each was given two minutes.
Many drilling opponents questioned the energy industry ties of the seven members of the panel, which was created with the intention of including the gas drilling industry.
"Chemicals are being found in residents' blood that have no safe levels," said Mel Packer of Point Breeze, an environmentalist with Marcellus Protest, an anti-drilling group. "If you're honest and ethical human beings, you'll resign."
Energy Secretary Steven Chu created the subcommittee on May 5 in response to President Obama's call "to improve the safety of shale gas development" as part of the president's "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future."
"This is a sham," said Josh Fox, who made the 2010 documentary film "Gasland." "This is not democracy. This is you using this forum to justify what you've already stated."
Drilling proponents repeatedly told the committee that no evidence has shown fracking to be harmful to public health.
Gary Slagel, government affairs director for Consol Energy Inc., said his industry "fully supports a scientific inquiry" into fracking.
"Too much of the information being circulated as fact is misinformation," he said.
Larry Watkins told the board that he has worked to drill for natural gas in seven states. Each has benefited from jobs and tax revenue created by the industry.
"Saying 'no' to gas means saying 'yes' to coal and oil," Watkins said.
Controversy erupted days before the meeting when environmental activists in Washington County complained that an oil industry group offered free meals, hotel rooms and airfare to drilling supporters from 18 counties in northeast Pennsylvania and southern New York who agreed to attend the meeting.
Organizers of the Northeast Marcellus Initiative, supported by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said their advocates deserved to be heard.
Those who spoke in favor of drilling outnumbered those against it at the meeting.
It was the subcommittee's second public meeting but its first in Pennsylvania, which has about 3,200 Marcellus shale gas wells.
Some researchers believe the Marcellus shale formation, about a mile beneath the surface, could contain about 500 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to satisfy U.S. demand for decades.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Wiz Khalifa’s life not the same, but he’s still having fun
- Rossi: Pirates must land Lester
- Steelers notebook: Brown calls Sanders’ comments about Roethlisberger ‘terrible’
- Steelers hold high hopes for pass defense
- After years of lobbying, Big Ben has Steelers running the no-huddle
- Joe Greene only 2nd player in Steelers history to get number retired
- U.S. Steel looks to expand its Research & Technology Center in Munhall
- Pirates notebook: Trade rumors for Red Sox pitcher Lester still swirling
- ‘Bangerz’ tour a long way from ‘Hannah Montana’ for Miley Cyrus
- Law enforcement, intelligence agencies want to ‘like’ you on social media
- Beloved teacher at 3 Western Pa. schools hears from students across nation