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When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett appointed the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission in March, the short study time allotted (120 days) and the fait accompli nature of its mission to guide the responsible development of natural gas due to its presumed economic benefits raised alarm bells. Many even wondered whether the final report was already written.

Today this suspicion seemed to be well-founded as the Commission hurriedly voted on a series of recommendations. Because the actual text of these presumably draft proposals were kept from the public and the media, their full content and context were visible only to the players at the Commission table.

More cards should be revealed on July 22, when the final report is due. In the meantime, news reports and live blogging from today’s meeting give a glimpse into the Commission’s current score. While there is reason to hope that some drilling regulations will be strengthened, the overall picture is bleak if you care about local zoning control, private land rights, and state forestland.

Earlier in the week, a coalition of environmental and citizens organizations made it clear that they have no intention of playing along with the Commission when it comes to health and the environment. In a detailed letter, Earthworks and its allies laid out their own recommendations for meaningful measures that must be taken to prevent yet more drilling-related problems of the kind already plaguing communities and air and water quality across the state.

In taking this step and when we prepare a response to the final report the coalition aims to raise the stakes in the debate over what’s both possible and imperative. With the Commission stacked with industry representatives and pro-drilling cabinet appointees (many of whom were major gubernatorial campaign contributors), we will keep calling any attempted bluffs and doing everything possible to make sure that Pennsylvania isn t dealt more losing hands.  

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