Schuylkill County Marcellus Task Force Takes Proactive Approach

The Schuylkill County Marcellus Task Force was established by the Schuylkill County Board of Commissioners in May 2011 to determine how they would deal with shale gas drilling issues. Last week, according to Leslie Richardson in, the task force was talking roads, education, taxes and water withdrawals with Lt. Governor Jim Cawley. It’s not so much a matter of drilling in Schuylkill County, as the shale is much deeper there, rather it’s concern over pollution, truck traffic and jobs. The county has one landfill that accepts cuttings and other solid waste, and in June, 2011, Rausch Creek Land LP of Valley View. PA applied to withdrawal up to 100,000 gallons from an abandoned mine in Porter Township for hydrofracking operations elsewhere in the state.

Because the uppermost reaches of the Schuylkill River sub-watershed are part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, their permit will have to be approved by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. If approved, the withdrawals could effect water levels and quality within the Schuylkill River Basin, where several water treatment facilities are located. In fact, the Schuylkill River, its tributaries and wells within its watershed supply drinking water to nearly 3 million people in Chester, Montgomery, Delaware counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania and Northern Delaware.

While it’s impossible to tell whether The Schuylkill Marcellus Task Force was taken with Cawley’s conviction that Gas is Great, they clearly see the industry as bankable source of new jobs and revenue. They appear to be charged with a dual mission: to identify key issues, conduct research, generate public awareness and review and recommend public policy regarding Marcellus Shale activities. And also: to ensure that county residents benefit from any economic development the natural gas industry could bring while minimizing potential problems such as pollution and traffic.

That’s a tall order for any county commissioners’ task force, yet these fifteen individuals are preparing to offer the drilling interests operating in their jurisdiction a measure of predictability within county lines. It’s yet to be determined how much waste, solid or liquid, they will accept, and how much water they are willing to part with each year. Perhaps, in the end, their recommendations with will simply echo whatever the state legislature comes up with in the fall, if not the executive branch’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which Cawley chaired. This seemed to be suggested by task force member, Thomas V. Yashinsky, of Orwigsburg, Arro Engineering and Environmental Consultants, whom many people ask for advice: “I’ve been recommending sitting tight a little bit for now until we see what the state comes up with.”


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