Today, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) announced $1 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory for the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research of Northeast Pennsylvania, a local energy institute that Wilkes University, King’s College, and Earth Conservancy will jointly operate to initially focus on all issues related to natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The funding will be used for research and development at the institute. Specifically, the institute will provide research about natural gas drilling’s impact on the local community and environment, help with problem solving for issues that arise, and enhance public outreach efforts in order to promote safe and environmentally responsible drilling in the Marcellus Shale that could aid in significant local economic development. Congressman Kanjorski first brought the idea of the energy institute to Vice President Joe Biden at a meeting at the White House this past spring. On April 19, Congressman Kanjorski met with Vice President Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, as well as representatives from Wilkes University, King’s College, and Earth Conservancy, to discuss the formation of the institute, how it could positively impact Northeastern Pennsylvania, and how the federal government could aid in the development.
“Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale has the potential to bring generous economic rewards for Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Congressman Kanjorski. “This could provide the largest economic boon to the area in decades, and it is important to make sure that all consequences, both positive and negative, are carefully examined, including the potential environmental impact on the region. The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research of Northeast Pennsylvania will help ensure that we have the most updated research at our disposal on the potential impact of natural gas drilling. The academic rigor for which Wilkes University and King’s College are known will ensure that Northeastern Pennsylvanians will have access to clear and accurate information on a wide range of issues surrounding the development of this important resource. I greatly thank Dr. Gilmour for taking the lead on this important project and Rev. O’Hara and Mike Dziak for significantly contributing to this initiative. We cannot waste time, and must responsibly take advantage of this valuable opportunity. The energy institute aims to help us do that. I also thank Vice President Biden and Secretary Chu for realizing the critical need for this institute in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
“As Congressman Kanjorski knows, shale gas production can benefit Pennsylvania and the U.S. economically while providing a welcome bridge to a greener energy future,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Today’s announcement for a local collaboration in Northeast Pennsylvania will help ensure that we are producing natural gas from the Marcellus Shale safely and in an environmentally responsible manner. I commend Congressman Kanjorski for his leadership and look forward to continuing to work with Pennsylvania on this resource.”
Wilkes University and King’s College will use their academic resources and scientists to provide research and policy papers on natural gas drilling for the institute that will be made available to the public. Earth Conservancy will serve on the advisory board for the institute and will use its experience and success in mine land reclamation and reuse as a credible and valuable resource for the area on this initiative. Created in 1992, the Earth Conservancy is a non-profit organization that works to restore and reuse mine-scarred land for recreational, industrial and residential purposes. The institute will have an advisory board comprised of scientists, engineers, scholars, and representatives of the community, industry, and environmental organizations to ensure that all aspects of natural gas drilling are fully represented.
“Wilkes University is eager to lead and host the institute with our partners King’s College and the Earth Conservancy,” said Dr. Tim Gilmour, President of Wilkes University. “The institute is a response to a vital community need to bring objective and science-based research and information to the critical issues of energy development and water quality that will arise as Marcellus Shale drilling proceeds. Our faculty will rapidly establish a water quality monitoring system for the region thatwill improve our understandings of the effects of energy development. This surface water research, coupled with the launching of a clearinghouse of unbiased research and information, will help inform the public, as well as government and industry partners, on this important economic and environmental issue.”
“As an academic institution dedicated to the betterment of our region, King’s College stands ready to use its resources to help promote the careful examination of the safety and health issues related to this potential major project for our area,” said Rev. Thomas J. O’Hara, President of King’s College.
“Earth Conservancy’s experience in planning, community outreach, implementation of reclamation projects, and land reutilization will be available to the institute to achieve its mission,” said Mike Dziak, President/CEO of Earth Conservancy.
One of the purposes of the energy institute is to help reduce the duplication of research and outreach efforts on drilling so that Northeastern Pennsylvania can learn about the impacts of such activities as quickly as possible, enabling the area to take advantage of drilling activities earlier as well. Specifically, the energy institute will work to aid with:
- Water resources research and development.
The energy institute will study water quality in Northeastern Pennsylvania to determine if natural gas drilling is impacting the local water supplies. It will also serve as an early warning system to minimize and manage any accidental release of frackwater or wastewater associated with drilling.
- Community outreach and public education.
The institute will regularly host public forums, and focus groups with community leaders and local officials to address relevant issues regarding natural gas drilling. At public forums, it will provide a panel of experts to answer questions, help provide the most up-to-date information on natural gas drilling, and encourage public input. The energy institute will also work with the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development to develop policy analysis and statements about Marcellus Shale development and its impact on the area. The institute will make publications available to the public.
- Information clearinghouse.
The DOE has a specific program that focuses on natural gas research and development to explore how to effectively use oil and natural gas in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. The program receives its funding through annual royalty fees from federal offshore oil and natural gas leases, not taxpayer dollars. About 25 percent of that funding is used by DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory for in-house research and development activities, including the $1 million that the energy institute received as a research partner. The energy institute has the potential to continue receiving its $1 million contract from the DOE funding for the next few years, based on performance, need, and on the annual federal budget.
Additionally, the House passed legislation, with Congressman Kanjorski’s strong support, which would increase federal funding for oil and natural gas research and development activities conducted by the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. If this legislation is enacted, it has the potential to increase the federal funding that the energy institute would receive annually.