The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

March 20, 2013

State in brief: Both sides agree on fracking standards

PITTSBURGH — Some of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies have made peace with environmentalists, agreeing to a voluntary set of tough new standards for fracking in the Northeast that could lead to a major expansion of drilling.

The program announced Wednesday will work a lot like Underwriters Laboratories, which puts its familiar UL seal of approval on electrical appliances that meet its standards.

In this case, drilling and pipeline companies will be encouraged to submit to an independent review of their operations. If they are found to be abiding by a list of stringent measures to protect the air and water from pollution, they will receive the blessing of the new Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development, created by environmentalists and the energy industry.

Many of the new standards appear to be stricter than state and federal regulations.

The project will cover Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio – where a frenzy of drilling is under way in the huge, gas-rich Marcellus and Utica Shale formations – as well as New York and other states in the East that have put a hold on new drilling.

Board OKs pacts with SSHE faculty, coaches

HARRISBURG – The board that oversees Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities gave the green light Wednesday to new contracts for thousands of faculty members and hundreds of sports coaches.

The State System of Higher Education board of governors ratified the four-year pacts, which are retroactive to July 2011.

They provide annual pay raises of between 3.5 and 7 percent for the 5,500 faculty members over the last three years of the contract.

The 600 coaches will get raises totaling 4.75 percent plus potential increases averaging

6 percent through performance-based merit pools in the last two contract years.

Faculty members will have to pay higher co-payments for prescription drugs and some office and emergency-room visits under their contract, while coaches will have to contribute more toward their health care premiums.

The faculty contract also includes $400,000 a year for faculty members’ professional development.

The faculty members and coaches are represented by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. They previously ratified their contracts.

Also Wednesday, the board approved a merit pool to cover potential raises for 1,400 non-union employees in the fiscal year that started July 1 and the next two years. Any increases will be based on their job-performance evaluations.

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