The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which was formed earlier this month by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and tasked with reporting back to the governor by July, held its first meeting in Harrisburg Friday.

During the nearly five-hour meeting the commission formed four work groups to study separate topics: public health, safety and environmental protection (to be chaired by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) acting secretary Michael Krancer); economic and workforce development (chaired by Alan Walker, acting secretary of Community and Economic Development); infrastructure (chaired by Barry Schoch, acting secretary of Transportation); and local impacts and emergency response (chaired by Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency). The work groups will meet separately and report back to the full commission at its next meeting, which is scheduled for April 27.

Corbett recently said he would consider impact fees if the commission finds evidence of local impacts -- and if the revenue from such fees would go to local communities, rather than the state's general fund -- but remains opposed to a state-imposed severance tax on the natural gas industry (see Shale Daily, March 25). Any talk of impact fees is speculative until the commission quantifies local impacts of drilling operations, a Corbett spokesman recently told NGI's Shale Daily.

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who chairs the commission, reinforced that message Friday, telling reporters that a statewide severance tax is "off the table."

Tax revenues have increased in Pennsylvania counties with significant drilling activity, according to the Corbett administration, which believes that the natural gas industry will add up to 200,000 jobs and more than $18 billion in output to the state economy by the end of the decade (see Shale Daily, March 2).

Corbett formed the 30-member commission "to oversee how we can build around this new industry and how we can make certain we do this while protecting our lands, our drinking water, our air and our communities, all while growing our workforce" (see Shale Daily, March 9).

During the commission's meeting Friday members heard presentations by Scott Perry, director of DEP's Bureau of Oil & Gas Management; Tom Murphy, co-director of the Penn State University Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research; and Teri Ooms, executive director of The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development.

A public comment session at the end of the meeting included remarks from a county commissioner who said Marcellus drilling is creating jobs and homeowners who said they were concerned about drilling's effects on property value and water quality, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The commission's report is due back to Corbett 120 days after its inaugural meeting.