The Colcom Foundation of Pittsburgh, PA, has launched the $1 million Marcellus Environmental Fund to distribute grants to nonprofit organizations “to address the accelerating environmental impact of shale drilling in western Pennsylvania through public education, community engagement, best practices, baseline data collection, ongoing monitoring, land owner guidance and collaborative projects.”

“At the heart of this the foundation would basically like to see a higher level of integrity and trustworthiness in the dissemination of information on the Marcellus Shale,” said John Rohe, foundation vice president of philanthropy. It would help if some of the hype on both sides of the drilling and fracturing issue were dispelled. “We’re finding ourselves in an era of mixed messages. How do any of us make sense out of this? If there are risks, how do you responsibly assess these risks.”

In the first phase applications for grants from nonprofit, tax-exempt entities will be accepted until Jan. 14 for grants to be awarded in February. Under a second phase applications will be accepted until March 14 for grants to be awarded in May.

Recalling the state’s experience with coal mining, Rohe said, “Energy extraction in western Pennsylvania has not always considered long-term consequences. All too often, the community at large has paid the price without the profit.” Remediation of prior mining activity continues to be funded by the Colcom Foundation and others.

“Hopefully, with proper planning and timing, the Marcellus profits will not come at the expense of western Pennsylvanian’s quality of life,” Rohe said.

“Nobody can predict the environmental impacts of Marcellus drilling on the community,” added Carol Zagrocki, program director, “but a calmer pace, along with more information, will enable best practices for landowners, drillers, and governmental entities.”

The Marcellus Fund guidelines are at