Coal-Bed Methane, Landowner Rights to be Subject of Hearing

HARRISBURG – The state House of Representatives’ Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will hold a public hearing on coal-bed methane extraction issues at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Johnstown Living/Learning Center on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus.

“Drilling for coal-bed methane has become increasing popular and profitable in recent years but it has created problems among drillers and owners of the surface property,” said state Rep. Camille “Bud” George, committee chairman. “The hearing will solicit testimony from industry officials and groups representing affected landowners.” 

George, D-74 of Clearfield County, said the hearing at the Richland Township, Cambria County, campus also will delve into House Bill 1735. The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Yewcic, D-72 of Cambria and Somerset counties, would provide owners of the property surface basic information about proposed wells and drillings and establish a “reasonable formula” for owners of the property surface to recover damages while allowing extraction to proceed.

Scheduled to testify from 1-2 p.m. are:

? George L. Ellis, president, Pennsylvania Coal Association.

? Stephen W. Rhoads, president, Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association.

? Louis D’Amico, executive director, Independent Oil and Gas Association.

Scheduled to testify from 2-3 p.m. are:

? James Kleissler, executive director, Center for Coalfield Justice.

? Ray Sleppy, president, Indiana County Farm Bureau.

? Beverly Braverman, executive director, Mountain Watershed Association.

? Barry Tuscano, board member, Conemaugh Valley Conservancy.

? Robert Davis, president, Cambria County Farm Bureau.

“The Laurel Highlands have seen a boom in methane-gas drilling and a corresponding increase in complaints from landowners who claim damages to their lands and business operations,” George said. “The committee needs input as legislation is crafted and advanced to protect all parties in this complex legal and environmental issue.”

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