April 27, 2011 / 10:04 PM / in 7 years

Group says Pa. governor advisers tied to shale problems

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - An environmental group said on Wednesday that nearly half of the violations in the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation last year were committed by companies whose representatives sit on Governor Tom Corbett’s Marcellus advisory commission.

“It is top heavy with exactly the people who are doing the drilling,” said Tom Hoffman, the Western Pennsylvania director of the environmental activist group Clean Water Action.

Roughly 150 people protested Wednesday outside a building in Harrisburg where the Marcellus Shale drilling commission was meeting.

The Clean Water group issued a report this week saying there were 1,200 well violations last year, and more than one in six of the state’s 2,498 wells had violations that included illegal dumping of toxic wastewater and failure to properly seal wells.

It also said nearly half the violations were committed by companies whose representatives sit on the drilling commission. Of the commission’s 31 members, 14 are either from the gas industry or pro-business chambers of commerce, said Clean Water state director Myron Arnowitt.

Gas-industry companies represented on the commission gave Governor Corbett $790,950 in campaign contributions, the report said.

Arnowitt criticized the commission for not meeting in areas where gas drilling is actually happening, to get the views of those who live there.

Calls to Corbett’s office were referred to the office of Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley, the shale commission chairman, whose representatives could not be reached for comment.

Reporting by David Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton

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