Non Profits Form Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission

A group of non profit institutions across Pennsylvania has formed a Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission to, as they say, “try to bring some balance to the discussion.”  Gov. Corbett appointed an inudstry centered Marcellus Shale Commission which delivered its report earlier this summer.  Little direct citizen input was contributed to that discussion and all of their hearings were held during business hours in Harrisburg.  

The organizations involved in this effort are Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Clean Water Action, Keystone Progress, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, Penn Environment, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, and the CLEAR Coalition.  They each nominated individuals to serve on the Commission and former State Representatives Dan Surra (D) and Carole Rubley (R) are the Co-Chairs.  They will conduct five regional hearings around the Commonwealth  during evening hours so people can attend and will also accept written comments and testimony through their website.

The scheduled meetings are:

Southwestern Pennsylvania

Aug. 31, 2011, 6-9 pm: South Fayette Middle School, 3640 Old Oakdale Rd., McDonald, Pa

Southeastern Pennsylvania

Sept. 6, 2011, 6-9 pm: The Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia, Pa.

Northeastern Pennsylvania

Sept. 13, 2011, 6-9 pm: Lycoming College, Academic Center on Mulberry Street, Room D001, Lower Level, Williamsport, Pa.

Sept. 14, 2011, 6-9 pm: Wysox Volunteer Fire Company, P.O. Box 2, Lake Rd., Wysox, Pa.

Central Pennsylvania

Week of Sept. 18, 2011, Harrisburg, Pa. (Details TBA)

The Citizens Commission hopes to send a report by mid October to the Governor, state legislators and the people of Pennsylvania designed “to supplement and add to” the Governor’s Commission.  Most of the testimony taken by that body was from industry people and/or experts hired and paid for by the energy industry.  As one participant said in a conference call this morning, this is too important long term to the state to not be done properly.  While profits are privatized the long term environmental costs will be socialized, a bill delivered to taxpayers down the road.

Broader focus of the Citizens Commission will include the social costs of drilling, impacts on hunters and fishermen, the impact of potential extraction taxes or fees, and the impact on Pennsylvania”s animals.  Some hunters have found themselves confronted by armed security guards while using state lands.  

Anyone unable to attend a hearing can contribute comments or testimony to the Commission via its website.

New Website Tracking Specter’s Votes

A coalition of progressive organizations has launched a website called Specter Scorecard with a sports theme to track the Senator’s key votes on several issues.  The baseball bat prominent on the page shows his current batting average at .500.  Keystone Progress, Penn Action, Clean water Action, True Majority, Progress Now and Stand With Dr. Dean are sponsoring the effort along with their allies.

The bills they will be tracking are the Employee Free Choice Act, the President’s progressive budget, the Clean Water Act, a public option for health care reform, and the Panama “Free” Trade Agreement.  The public option for health care is not something I consider a progressive or liberal position but centrist.  I asked them about why they didn’t make single payer healthcare their benchmark and they replied that since that will not be coming up for a vote it wasn’t considered.

Sen. Max Baucus has shut any consideration of single payer healthcare from the Senate’s deliberations and has even had those attempting to include it arrested.  This is a significant progressive issue but I see their rationale.  It isn’t possible to calculate Specter’s batting average on single payer when the Senate Democrats are prohibiting even a discussion of single payer.

The sites the website links to don’t go into much detail about the bills and since the average person isn’t as knowledgeable about these as we junkies are I suspect they’ll add that as they go along.  They also said they could add other issues as they arise or remove an issue like EFCA is Specter puts forward an unacceptable compromise bill.  This is a website where Pennsylvanians can track Sen. Specter’s progress as a Democrat and determine for themselves how he is voting.  They can then determine whether to keep Arlen in the starting lineup or trade him for a player to be named later or simply replace him with a pinch hitter.  I vote to switch to a horse racing format and send him out to pasture.