Senator Fontana is pictured with Frank Polito of Comcast and Doris Carson Williams of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Western PA following the July 15th Special Breakfast Meeting of the Chamber. Senator Fontana was the featured speaker and shared his thoughts on the 2011-12 budget, the process and its impact on small business with the over 60 individuals who were in attendance.
Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Votes on Recommendations
Last Friday, the 30-member Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission voted and adopted 96 recommendations that will now be submitted to the Governor by Friday, July 22nd at which point they will also become public. Based on news reports from the Commission meeting, the recommendations range from ways the state can help the natural gas industry find new customers to requiring that the industry help government pay the cost of its damage on roads and to the environment.
Four months of work has, for the most part, put us squarely back where we were four months ago. While the recommendations are being touted as a comprehensive, strategic proposal for the state to deal with the potential impacts of natural gas drilling, the reality is that there is nothing new here and that the delay in implementing a fee has resulted in a loss of $200 million to the Commonwealth. Imagine what that $200 million could mean to our schools, our social service agencies – even to our bottom line!
As we have come to expect, the recommendations that were voted on were not provided to the public – and in some cases, Friday was the first time that they were heard. While public input has been part of the process, it’s difficult to weigh in on something that you cannot see or review – and even more difficult when the vote is taken just after it’s read for the very first time.
Among those recommendations being reported are allowing forced pooling, encouraging the construction of intrastate pipelines, adding natural gas to a required portfolio of alternative power sources, imposing an impact fee, studying the impact on public health of drilling communities, requiring more distance between drilling sites and public water sources, and using higher education facilities to identify other uses for natural gas in the Commonwealth.
Back in May, I wrote in the News & Views about the need to address some of these issues:
“We all understand and acknowledge the future impact on jobs and the economy that the Marcellus shale industry can provide. It is for exactly that reason that we must address, rather than ignore, the negative issues surrounding this industry. We must work cooperatively to address what can be, and in some cases has already been, devastating results. Unlike the industries of the past, we cannot ignore the impacts on the health, safety and welfare of our residents.”
I also outlined what I thought we should be taking into consideration regarding this industry:
“The health, safety and welfare of our residents should be our priority and our largest concern. We should improve access to information on the chemicals and compounds used in hydrofracking. We should consider construction standards for private water wells and Marcellus shale wells. We should review bonding requirements for oil and gas wells and determine whether those amounts need to be increased. We need to ensure proper distances and set backs between well sites and water sources. We need to improve records and access to complaints and inspection reports to the public. We need to allow local communities to make decisions that are best for them in determining whether to allow drilling within their borders. And we need to continue the conversation with our residents, to hear their concerns and complaints, and we need to be responsive to the issues that they bring to us. That is why they elected us.”
I still believe those things today – and am not certain that what is in our residents’ best interests are at the heart of these recommendations. As just one example, take forced pooling. This is a practice where, by law, holdout landowners can be forced to lease their below-ground gas rights under certain conditions. Property rights are guaranteed in the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution – and property rights are ones that we should be very cautious about interfering with for any reason.
Although I have supported pooling legislation in the past, that has only been in the case where property owners have agreed to leases and the pooling is between the drilling companies – to limit the drilling and forced competing companies to work together to further limit the impact on the environment and the landowners. It, in no way, requires the landowners to do anything – and retains the property right that is inherent in their ownership.
This is an issue that I continue to work on – and one that I stand ready to discuss, debate and vote on – as I have for the past few years. The Senate Democratic Caucus has put together legislation, worked on developing policy and continues to look for ways for the Commonwealth to move forward on this issue. During the budget process, the Senate Democrats reached out to the House Democrats and put together a united House and Senate Democratic plan. The intent was to incorporate it into any Fiscal Code bill that may be moved as part of the final budget agreement. Although efforts during the final budget actions were not successful, we will remain vigilant for an opportunity to have meaningful protections and regulations put in place for this industry.
Community Health Resource at Duquesne
You don’t have to be a Duquesne University employee, student or alumnus to take advantage of the health services offered by the Center for Pharmacy Care, a program operated by the University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy. The Center provides health screenings, lifestyle counseling, educational seminars, drug therapy review and management, disease state management and outcome reporting for various health conditions. Pharmacy students have access to state-of-the-art testing equipment to provide quick results to patients.
The Center is operated by faculty and students from the Mylan School of Pharmacy, and they are eager to help you as I learned when I took a tour of the facility earlier this year. I was impressed by the professionalism and knowledge of the students, as well as the technology they have at their disposal. The Center for Pharmacy Care is located at Duquesne University, 1000 Fifth Avenue, and is open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For an appointment call 412-396-2053.
Grants to Preserve African American Heritage
Grants are available to non-profits and local governments to help document, preserve and interpret Pennsylvania’s African American history. The technical assistance grants are available through the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) thanks to a federal award. Organizations can apply for as much as $3,000 each (grants do not require a match). A limited amount of grants will be made available. The deadline to apply is September 30th. For more information, visit the Black History Grant guideline section of the PHMC website.
We Want You!
Although we all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, if you can spare an hour a week, you may find your time well worth it. The Meals on Wheels Program in Beechview (at St. Pamphilus) needs volunteers to give just an hour a week to help the program.
The Meals on Wheels Program delivers meals to 70-75 people in the Beechview, Brookline and Dormont neighborhoods five days a week, Monday through Friday. The program is in need of kitchen help and drivers. If you are interested in helping, contact Barb Hess at the Meals on Wheels program at 412-343-5455.
Go Green and Blitz Your Home
By taking a few simple actions this summer, you can start saving energy, money and resources all while cutting global warming and air pollution. The Black and Gold City Goes Green Campaign suggests blitzing your home, office or community by doing the following:
Switch out old incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, which on average use 75 percent less energy and are safer for the environment.
Stop receiving junk mail by canceling unwanted credit card information at www.OptOutPrescreen.com as well as bulk mail you don’t want at www.dmachoice.org. You may also be able to switch to paperless banking through your bank’s website.
Get rid of old, supplemental refrigerators or freezers you rarely use. According to Duquesne Light, an old fridge could be using four times the energy of a newer model. Find out how you can have your old fridge hauled away with the Watt Choices program.
Recycle more often. By recycling even half of your trash you can cut your global warming pollution by 509 pounds in one year.
Report these and other actions you take on the Black and Gold City Goes Green website to qualify for a monthly prize, and see how your actions help create a cleaner and healthier city.
State Parks and Forests App
A state parks and forests mobile app for smart phones is now available, allowing users to search for park and forest locations, make reservations, access park information, view maps, and much more. There is a free version and an enhanced paid version of the software. The paid version includes additional GPS features and costs $3.99. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has partnered with the PA Parks and Forests Foundation and ParksByNature Network to offer the app. To get the app for your smart phone, search for “Pennsylvania State Parks” through your phone’s app link, or download the app for Apple by clicking here or for Android by clicking here.
Did You Know…
Did you know there is a state park within 25 miles of nearly every Pennsylvanian? In all, there are 2.2 million acres of state forests and 117 state parks covering 295,000 acres in the Commonwealth. Each year state parks generate more than $900 million in visitor spending for the communities that surround them.
Around the District
Following is a list of just a few of the activities going on in the district this coming week. If you have an event that you’d like to have highlighted, please e-mail the details.
Wednesday, July 20th
||Pittsburgh Riverhounds Game (vs. Dayton Dutch Lions)
Chartiers Valley Senior High School, 50 Thoms Run Road
Thursday, July 21st
||Bellevue Borough Movie in the Park
Goonies – Sponsored by Allegheny General Hospital Suburban Campus
||Heidelberg VFD Bingo
Heidelberg VFD, 456 First Street
||Classic Cinema Under the Stars
Settler’s Cabin Park – Gilbert Love Shelter
Saturday, July 23rd
||Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Blood Pressure Screenings
Brookline Boulevard Station/Fire Station 26
||Lowe’s Build & Grow Clinic – Build Binoculars (Kids 3+)
2100 Washington Pike Carnegie
||McKees Rocks 1st Annual Classic Car Cruise
Admission $5 per Vehicle
McKees Rocks Municipal Parking Lot
(For More Information – Contact Chas 412-670-7297)
Sunday, July 24th
|| Robinson Township Christmas in July
Clever Park Pool
The Bigham House, located in Chatham Village on Mount Washington, was one of many Underground Railroad sites in Western Pennsylvania. The house was built in the mid 1800’s and provided refuge to escaped slaves from the south seeking freedom in the north. Today, the preserved house is used as a community clubhouse known as Chatham Hall.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana