Saturday, June 11, 2011

Free Bus Ride to Washington (some restrictions may apply)

Monday, June 13 will be a busy day in Washington – Pennsylvania, that is; not DC. That evening the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Natural Gas Subcommittee will hold a public meeting to “allow subcommittee members to hear directly from community members interested in the safety and environmental performance of hydraulic fracturing”.

President Obama directed US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to form the Natural Gas Subcommittee as part of the President’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future” - a “comprehensive plan to reduce America's oil dependence, save consumers money, and make our country the leader in clean energy industries”. So back in May, Sec. Chu announced the establishment of the Energy Advisory Board Natural Gas Subcommittee on Fracking Issues. Their job is, he said, is to make recommendations on improving the “safety and environmental performance” of hydraulic fracturing in shale formations.

There were only a few problems:
  1. Many of the Subcommittee’s members are closely tied to the oil and gas industry;
  2. No one directly impacted by shale gas development was included in the subcommittee; and
  3. The meetings were only being held in Washington, DC, far from the areas already damaged by drilling.
After lots of public outcry, the Subcommittee announced it will hold a meeting in Washington, PA so its members can hear from people who live in areas where actual drilling occurs. As one activist said, “They need to hear from people whose water, property, and health have been impacted by gas drilling. They need to be told why current industry practices and regulations are not nearly enough to protect our communities.”

Besides the SEAB Natural Gas Subcommittee, lots of other people plan to head for Washington Jefferson on Monday. And some of them will have a sweet ride. On Thursday, June 9 Thomas Shepstone, from Energy in Depth, offered free bus rides for those wishing to attend the DOE meeting.

In an e-mail to “undisclosed recipients” Shepstone wrote, “… this is an extremely important
event.  We need as many of you from our region there as possible …” and he offered the following incentives to entice people to attend:
  1.  Bus transportation (pickups in Binghamton, Scranton and the Williamsport area)
  2. A hotel room for the night of June 13th
  3. Your meals
  4.  Tickets for the Pittsburgh Pirates game (though media reports mentioned this got nixed)
  5.  Airfare (for older folks, especially..and for heads of landowner groups.

I am bummed that I haven’t made it onto his invitation list….

IF you go to the meeting intending to give comments, arrive early to register. The DOE is allowing 105 minutes for public comment and limiting each person to 2 minutes of oral testimony. They will also accept written testimony (see below).

And, for those who cannot make it to the little town 40 minutes south-west of Pittsburgh, the DOE will broadcast the meeting live via webcast. The link to the webcast will be made available on this site on the day of the event. Go to for more information.

If you go:

US Department of Energy meeting on Hydro-Fracking Safety & Environment
Monday, June 13, 2011                      
7 -  9 pm (sign up to speak begins at 6:30 pm)
Washington Jefferson College
60 South Lincoln Street, Washington PA

You may submit a written statement and other documentation to:
Renee Stone
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington D.C. 20585
 by email to:

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