A state commission charged with developing a strategy on how to best take advantage of the development of natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale will have local representation.
Lycoming County Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland and Vincent Matteo, Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce president, have been appointed to sit on the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which has been formed by Gov. Tom Corbett.
They are the only county commissioner and local chamber leader to be appointed to the commission.
Corbett issued a statement in which he said the commission's mission will be "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 (while) growing our workforce."
Chairing the commission will be Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who was in Williamsport last week to attend the county Republican Committee's Lincoln Day dinner. While he was here, Cawley met with members of the county Community Gas Exploration Task Force, which was the first such task force formed in Pennsylvania.
Wheeland said he did not request a seat on the commission.
"It was unsolicited. I got a phone call on Monday afternoon from the governor's office requesting my services," Wheeland said. "I said, 'absolutely.' "
The commission has 120 days from its first meeting to report to Corbett with its findings.
"We've not gotten the itinerary or agenda, yet, but verbally I've been told the first meeting will be on March 25 in Harrisburg," Wheeland said.
Both Wheeland and Matteo said they were honored to be chosen to serve on the commission.
"As an elected official, it will be my responsibility to assist in the development of this resource in a manner that protects our environment and natural resources and safeguards the interest of our citizens and business community," Wheeland said.
"I'm happy (Corbett) thought enough to put a representative of a local chamber of commerce (on the commission)," Matteo said. "He realizes the importance of (gas development) on the local business community, and we represent the local business community."
"It is my goal to see Pennsylvania takes full advantage of this job creation opportunity while also protecting our environment," he said.
The commission is comprised of 30 members, including Cawley.
Members include the acting secretaries of the state agencies, representatives of conservation organizations, gas exploration companies and industry associations, Penn State geosciences professor Terry Engelder and municipal government associations.
Asked if the commission adequately represented the interests of communities in the Marcellus Shale region, Matteo said, "Lycoming County is and that makes sense because we are kind of the epicenter for gas industry companies moving to the region."
The commission is comprised of a "diverse" group of people who can offer a wide range of perspectives about shale gas development, Matteo said.
"I'm excited about it. That is quite a list of people," he said.