What the “frack” is happening with Pennsylvania fracking policy?: Political Science department to host fracking panel discussion, April 14

Toni Pennello, Staff Writer

A panel discussion entitled “Frack It Or Leave It” will be presented at Wilkes on April 14 at 4 p.m. in the Henry Student Center Ballroom, funded by a grant from Pi Sigma Alpha The panel will be moderated by political science professor Dr. Thomas Baldino.

“The purpose of the panel is to take a public policy approach to this issue of fracking,” Baldino explained.

Fracking is short for “hydraulic fracturing,” and is the process of injecting liquid into the ground at a high pressure in order to create fissures for natural gas to escape from the Marcellus Shale found in the ground.

The technology needed for extracting this natural gas has been around since 1970, but in 2009 the process became cost efficient with the use of fracking.

Fracking has been a cause for controversy in the US, with concerns about the environmental effects and efficiency, among other things.

“There have been many discussions around the science of fracking… in response  to fracking, the government, in Pennsylvania in particular, has regulated it, or attempted to regulate it in various ways, so what this panel is going to examine is the history of the fracking policy, not the science of it,” Baldino said.

Several guest speakers will be involved in the discussion, each serving a particular purpose in meeting the goals of the panel: Andrew Maykuth, Sarah Pralle, Michael Helbing and Lee S. Piatt.

Baldino is particularly excited about Maykuth’s contribution.

Maykuth is a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who has been writing about energy policy since 2009. Maykuth has been following the developments in shale-gas since its early days.

“I’ve been reading his columns on fracking and energy policy for a long time, and he is very good,” Baldino said.

“He’s going to objectively present the overview of what Pennsylvania has done. The political scientist on the panel, Sarah Pralle, is going to do a multi-state comparison; what have other states done with regards to regulating and managing shale gas,” Baldino said.

Pralle is an associate professor and senior researcher at the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at the Maxwell School, as well as the author of a book entitled “Branching Out, Digging In: Environmental Advocacy and Agenda Setting.” Pralle has also written several articles regarding environmental policy.

Michael Helbing, attorney from Pennfuture, a pro environmental advocacy group, will present a case against fracking, and attorney Lee S. Piatt of Rosenn Jenkins and Greenwald will present a case for fracking.

Piatt is also an advisory board member of both the King’s College Family Business Forum and the Wilkes University Family Business Alliance. Piatt served as funding co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s shale energy law committee.

“They will discuss the implications and consequences of what Pennsylvania has done on a practical level,” Baldino explained.

The panel will then be opened up for questions.

“The first two presentations will be neutral and objective, the other two will have a flavor to them… I’m hoping that students will take from this enough information that each student can form his or her own opinion on the matter, and be more informed on the matter.”

For more information, contact Dr. Thomas Baldino at [email protected]