Happy Monday, fair ER readers, it's your humble Washington Correspondent filling in best I can this week for the vacationing McNulty -- so expect about 33 percent less snark and 75 percent less clever visual aides.
In a matter of minutes, Sen. Bob Casey will gavel in a hearing on safety issues and the Marcellus Shale at the federal courthouse on Grant Street. Seems like everyone is talking about the shale these days, with an extraction tax on the table in Harrisburg and 1,200(!) people turning out for an EPA hearing on drilling last week in Southpointe.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition industry group is responding with a high-profile lobbying effort that, our cross-state news partners at the Philly Inquirer report today, might include former Gov. Tom Ridge.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents more than two dozen natural-gas companies, is negotiating with Ridge's new lobbying firm, the Ridge Policy Group, to help in its plans for an aggressive public outreach campaign, coalition officials confirmed to The Inquirer last week.
That campaign is aimed at countering concerns about the rapid growth of gas drilling - not to mention the risks, as evidenced by the June explosion at a Clearfield County well. The industry, which is regulated by the state Department of Environmental Protection, is embroiled in legislative debates over taxing gas extracted from the lucrative Marcellus Shale formation, among other issues.
"Right now, there is so much misinformation out there," said Kristi Gittins, a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition's executive committee. "We have a lot of work to do explaining what the economic benefits are for Pennsylvania and for the energy security of the nation."
Details of the negotiations with Ridge's firm are being kept under wraps, and coalition officials stressed that a formal contract with the firm had not yet been signed.
But luring a prestige-laced name such as Ridge's would infuse the industry's efforts with the full force of the former governor's popularity and influence.