Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Chairman Robert F. Powelson visited the Daily Local News last Thursday.
Powelson is no stranger to Chester County. A resident of Kennett Township, he has been involved in the region for many years.
According to the PUC website, Powelson served as the President of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry, a 1,600-member business organization that he joined in 1994. During his tenure as President and CEO, the Accrediting Board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded the Chester County Chamber a Three Star Accreditation standard of excellence. In 2005, he was selected by the Eisenhower Presidential Fellows to be a U.S. fellow in Singapore and Australia. Prior to joining the Chester County Chamber, Powelson was the Director of Government Relations for the Delaware County Chamber, where he helped to develop the county’s economic development strategy. From 1990-91, Powelson served as a Staff Assistant to Congressman Curt Weldon. So it’s probably fair to say that Powelson is definitely dialed in.
The purpose of his visit – or so it seemed to me – was to update the public on a few items, most prominently the whole Marcellus Shale situation. Not one to say I know everything about the Marcellus Shale topic I was happy to hear what Powelson had to say. And what he had to say was that the PUC was very involved in the situation and he pointed out the benefits of the continuation of the drilling.
Now we all have seen or heard about the documentary movie, “Gasland.” The now infamous scene is where the owner of land in Colorado was able to ignite the water from the faucet. And there have been the arguments back and forth on the accuracy or the Hollywooding of that scene.
Beyond all that is the discussion that is very important to consumers all over and that is the safety – long and short term – surrounding the drilling of Marcellus Shale. According to Powelson, the process is very safe and in fact should be a growing trend. He pointed out all of the benefits including cheaper fuel prices and a 75-year (or more) supply of natural gas. He says that it’s cleaner, helps the economy in that the cheaper fuel and all that goes with it helps create jobs. He also pointed out to those Chester County residents worried about long-range pipelines in their backyard that those sort of pipelines become less necessary once you’re dealing with in-state resources like those harvested from Marcellus Shale.
So what’s the downside? What are we afraid of exactly? Well, it seems that we are worried about the long-term environmental effects that come from hydraulic fracturing. And to be honest, I like Mr. Powelson. He seems genuine and honest and working for the public and the consumer. But I just don’t know and can’t really predict the effects of the drilling. We may not know for decades what we’re doing to Pennsylvania by this drilling. And in the end, we may have worried for nothing. But then again, maybe not.
Perhaps we have all become worried because it’s one of those issues like the Alaskan pipeline or other such projects, processes or efforts where it may seem harmless at the beginning and then we find out years later that was indeed a HUGE problem. And those in the energy business seem to have answers and rebuttal to whatever information or movie comes out bashing Marcellus and similar projects.
So in the end, I guess I don’t have a good answer. I would love to be positive that Marcellus drilling and other similar projects are 100 percent safe and great for all of us. I suppose there are lots of people like me who feel so very guilty about the things we have done to our planet that we are terrified of doing something bad again.
I read a lot and try and stay away from the movies like “Gasland,” only because they don’t always do anything to clear up the questions, rather they only add more.
I suppose it’s back to more reading. Perhaps I will be better prepared for a decision on Mr. Powelson’s next visit.
— Andy Hachadorian
(Tomorrow: We talk about energy choice and how you can save money)