About 75 people attended a public issues forum on Marcellus Shale in Centre County on April 14, 2012. Public Issues Forums provide an environment to work through complex and controversial issues in a way that allows us to get to the heart of what is important to each person.
Public Issues Forums are designed to encourage people to consider different perspectives and to wrestle with the trade-offs and consequences inherent in each approach. An explicit goal of any forum is to have those who attend come to a better understanding of why people with different viewpoints see the issue in the way they do; another is to discover areas of common ground for moving forward.
An important start for the conversation is an issue book, which frames the development of the Marcellus Shale not as an either/or position (i.e., should we impose a moratorium?) but as a series of potential approaches each with their own potential actions. A local Task Force developed these approaches based on surveys, conversations with Centre County residents, and other information from diverse sources. Although the four approaches overlap, they do suggest different underlying interests, priorities and trade-offs to consider.
Approach 1. Pursue economic opportunity for all.
From this perspective, we should position ourselves to take full advantage of the economic potential of the Marcellus Shale for our families, businesses and communities. The new wells are already resulting in more jobs, more income, a boost in local business and higher tax revenues for the state. Responsible investments of this new wealth could benefit all of us, now and for generations to come.
Approach 2. Protect health and safety.
From this perspective, the serious risks associated with shale gas drilling require us to put safety first every step of the way. There are signs of harmful consequences to human health and safety and to our water, air and land. We need to learn more about the immediate and long-term impacts of Marcellus wells so that we can make responsible decisions about their development and whether or not it’s safe to drill them at all.
Approach 3. Preserve our communities.
From this perspective, we must protect our quality of life by acting now to minimize the negative aspects of the Marcellus Shale on our communities. The dramatic increase in development is straining the housing market, roads, public services, parks and wildlife areas, and even relationships. We need to address these local issues to preserve the resources and heritage of our towns and rural areas.
Approach 4. Achieve energy security.
From this perspective, the Marcellus Shale offers a critical opportunity to take our energy future into our own hands. Development of this abundant source of natural gas has the potential to lower utility bills and support more fuel-efficient transportation. Natural gas also gives us the time we need to replace our declining fossil fuels with solar, wind and other renewable energy to guarantee energy security for our children and grandchildren.