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After months of meetings, hearings, and fanfare, the issuance of recommendations by Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission was underwhelming in its predictability. There was hardly any doubt that the industry-packed Commission would seek to boost drilling’s prospects and quell calls for greater protection of health and the environment.

Yet it’s hard to not be disappointed anyway, as the Campaign for Clean Water expressed clearly in a press release and press conference yesterday outside Governor Corbett’s office. While some improvements on the regulatory front were made, the Commission’s ideas pale in comparison to the truly protective recommendations put forth last week by the coalition.

The Commission wore blinders when it came to the cumulative impacts of a rapidly expanding industry, air pollution caused by gas development, the need for thorough testing of drinking water supplies, and property and landscape devastation from miles and miles of pipelines. Even the rights of landowners and municipalities seemed suitable for sacrifice.

But the Commission did fix a clear gaze on one thing: the expansion of drilling through incentives to convert vehicles, mass transit, and manufacturing processes so that they use and become dependent on natural gas. Given the mounting violations by gas companies and the non-renewable nature of this dirty energy source, maybe the real accomplishment of the Commission will turn out to be a return to the drawing board in the not-too-distant future.

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