Congressman talks to chamber about gas caucus

Posted April 30, 2011

by Mike Bradwell

BEALLSVILLE - Congressman Mark Critz said Friday he has formed a Marcellus Shale Gas Caucus to educate other members of Congress about one of the world's largest gas fields that crosses his district.

Critz, D-12th District, which includes part of Washington County and all of Greene County, told about 75 members of the Washington County and Mon Valley Regional chambers of commerce that he formed the caucus about six weeks ago with Congressman Tom Reed of New York's 29th District.

Speaking at Nemacolin Country Club during a breakfast meeting for the two chambers, Critz noted that Reed's state currently has a moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale "and this is driving Tom Reed crazy.

"Our goal is to educate other members of Congress about the environmental and economic aspects" of the Marcellus Shale, Critz said, adding that he also is a member of the House's Natural Gas Caucus, which was formed last year by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-18th District.

Critz said he and Reed felt that the Marcellus Shale strata, which crosses parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and is believed to be one of the world's largest gas fields, needed its own caucus because of its sheer size and economic impact.

"What we have here in Western Pennsylvania is a solution or at least a component of" a solution to America's drive to become energy-independent, Critz said.

While acknowledging the environmental challenges posed by drilling in the shale bed, Critz said he had recently met with officials of Aquatech International in Canonsburg, which is introducing an on-site portable fracking water treatment system that the company says can recycle the millions of gallons of water required to fracture the shale and return it to the next well pad for reuse.

He said the natural gas being produced by the Marcellus here is part of a larger energy portfolio in the region that includes wind turbines being produced in Johnstown and solar panels in Westmoreland County, as well as coal mined in Washington and Greene counties.

"When you talk about Pennsylvania, it's energy, energy, energy," he said.

All of those components have to be considered in any discussion about how the state continues to grow its economy, Critz said.

Critz, who serves on the House Small Business and Armed Services committees, said the Defense Department will soon submit a defense authorization bill to the committee, containing the items it needs for funding in the upcoming budget.

He said the House begins by putting the request through its Armed Service subcommittees that consider the needs of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.

The Armed Services budget request, which will eventually be drafted by the House committee into a bill, will go to the House floor for a vote in about three weeks.

"Usually, the Armed Services bill is the first to hit the floor of the House," he said.

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