Casey Discusses Community Re-Entry Program, Gas Drilling in Potter County

COUDERSPORT, PA-U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today announced his support for, and committee passage of, $100,000 for a prison recidivism prevention pilot program.  Following the announcement, Senator Casey met with local officials to discuss how Potter County is handling the influx of drilling companies and working to secure local jobs.

 “I am glad I was able to come to Coudersport to discuss two issues that are of great importance to both Potter County and the entire Commonwealth,” said Senator Casey. “The community re-entry program that will serve Potter County Jail provides a vital community service by providing inmates with the tools necessary to lead productive lives. Additionally, natural gas drilling is a major issue for many towns and communities throughout Pennsylvania.  If done in the proper way, natural gas development has the potential to create Pennsylvania jobs, strengthen our State’s economy and reduce our dependence on foreign energy.”

The $100,000 that Senator Casey supports has been passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Upon final approval, the federal funding would implement a collaborative community re-entry program that will serve Potter County Jail inmates and their family members. The program would offer coordinated case management, counseling, job training, life skills and drug and alcohol treatment to male inmates and their families for six to twelve months during incarceration. In addition, community-based services and follow-up for approximately six months after prison release would also be provided.

The discussion on natural gas drilling focused on the challenges and opportunities faced by Potter County as drilling companies arrive in the area.

Senator Casey has introduced legislation to help prepare Pennsylvania workers for jobs in the natural gas industry.  The Marcellus Shale On-the-Job Training Act of 2010 (S.3720) will authorize grants to strengthen the On-the-Job Training programs to help ensure natural gas drilling jobs go to Pennsylvanians and not workers from out-of-state.

Senator Casey introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (S.1215) to repeal an exemption provided for the oil and gas industry and would require the disclosure of the chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing processes.  

Senator Casey also plans to introduce legislation to improve emergency response at oil and gas wells.   The Faster Action Safety Team Emergency Response (FASTER) Act of 2010 provides the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with the ability to draft regulations that will enhance emergency response procedures at oil and gas wells.  Senator Casey chaired a hearing in Pittsburgh last month to gather comments on his proposal.  Specifically, Senator Casey’s proposal would provide OSHA the power to draft regulations that will require operators to:

•    Have an employee, knowledgeable in responding to emergency situations, present at the well at all times during the exploration or drilling phase;
•    Make available a certified response team, within one hour of ground travel time, if an emergency situation arises;
•    Contact local first responders within 15 minutes of the commencement of an emergency situation;
•    Contact OSHA within 1 hour of the commencement of an emergency situation;
•    Contact the National Response Center within 1 hour of the commencement of an emergency situation;
•    Provide communication technology at the well site (e.g.., mobile communication or satellite phone);
•    Provide annual training to local first responders on the hazards of a well site and proper emergency response techniques; and
•    File an annual report with OSHA that names the certified response team assigned to each well of the operator.

OSHA will have 18-months to finalize the regulations under this Act.  The Act will allow OSHA to define the term ‘emergency situation.’