06 December 2011

Public knowledge essential as Marcellus Shale develops

Energy Forum 2011 focused on energy policy, environmental impact and regulation
         The Marcellus Shale formation.
By Dana Giallonardo, Juris Staff Writer
On November 7, 2011, the third and final installment of the Energy Forum 2011 was held at Heinz History Center. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Babst Calland, a prominent Pittsburgh law firm that has spearheaded the movement for law firm involvement in the Marcellus Shale initiative, sponsored the series.

The most recent forum focused on the development of sensible energy policy in light of the significant growth of the Marcellus Shale industry in this region over the past decade. Previous forums have touched on topics ranging from the environmental impact of Marcellus Shale drilling and chemicals used in the fracking process, jobs created by the new industry, and taxation and regulation.

David Shribman, Executive Editor of the Post-Gazette moderated the forums, with introductions by Dean Calland, founding shareholder of Babst Calland and an attorney in the firm’s Environmental, Health and Safety Services Group. Members of the public were urged to submit questions to a panel of policy makers, politicians and experts, who then shared their thoughts on the questions that were posed. Most recently, the third forum hosted former Independent Governor of Maine, Angus King; Pennsylvania’s former DEP secretary, Kathleen McGinty; former Senator from New Hampshire, John Sununu; and the Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, Christopher Borick.

While these forums succeeded in attracting hundreds of Pittsburghers, it doesn’t stop there. Many counties, townships and interest groups in and around Pittsburgh have created forum-like events for community involvement in the Marcellus Shale developments in their local areas as well. The Post-Gazette has even created a Marcellus Shale Pipeline website that includes general information about Marcellus Shale and fracking local regulations, Marcellus Shale news, and an event calendar, among many other things.

As a Pittsburgh native, I think it’s an exciting and invigorating time to be in Pittsburgh as we stand on the precipice of an industrial revitalization in Western Pennsylvania. As a young person, it’s definitely remarkable to witness the major renaissance of a city that transformed itself from accommodating a massive steel industry, to one fitting the needs of the healthcare industry and medical innovations, and now one that will again transform to fit an industry that could change the way our nation looks at energy.

Public knowledge is essential, however, to address very serious and legitimate concerns – a non-exhaustive list that involves potential negative environmental effects and the safety of drilling mechanisms. That’s why I commend the Post-Gazette and Babst Calland for instituting these forums to, at the very least, start the conversation and education about the effects of drilling, energy policy, and the Marcellus Shale industry in general.

Although Energy Forum 2011 has ended, the conversation should not. As law students, we’re about to enter into something that’s monumental if we choose to practice in the realm of environmental and energy law, not just with regards to the Marcellus Shale industry. Whatevery your feelings on the Marcellus Shale initiative, it is us who can create change, who can instill policy decisions and implementation, and who can help create a sustainable industry that will hopefully call Western Pennsylvania home for years to come.

Dana Giallonardo is a Staff Writer for JURIS. She earned her undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in 2010, where she majored in Journalism and minored in Communications and Creative Writing. While at Lehigh, Dana was an Assistant Editor on the Brown and White student newspaper. Dana will graduate in June of 2013 and can be reached at giallonardod@duq.edu.