Grant to educate public on Marcellus Shale issues

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The Colcom Foundation on Monday said it was setting up a new $1 million Marcellus Environmental Fund for grants to study or educate the public about the environmental impact of the expanding natural gas industry here.

"There are a number of mixed messages out there right now" about Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, said John Rohe, the foundation's vice president of philanthropy. "We need to know whether or how much this process might be affecting the ecology as well as the health of citizens of Western Pennsylvania."

The foundation, in its news release Monday, suggested areas of interest in Marcellus Shale could include public education, community engagement, best practices, baseline data collection, on-going monitoring, land owner guidance and collaborative projects.

The foundation's board of directors will award grants in two phases: the first for applications filed with Colcom by Jan. 14, to be awarded sometime in February; the second for applications filed by March 14, to be awarded in May.

Colcom, which was created by the late Cordelia S. May, heiress to the Mellon family fortune, has an environmental focus for its local grants. It targets overpopulation issues with its national grants and will disburse about $20 million in grants overall this year, Mr. Rohe said.

The foundation has previously given out individual, smaller grants related to Marcellus Shale drilling, including a 2009 grant to Carnegie Mellon University researchers to do a baseline survey of the Monongahela River watershed.

The board of directors came up with the idea for the new fund in part because of its past work on acid mine drainage remediation, Mr. Rohe said.

"The people who dug those old mines then didn't realize they were creating dead rivers" that Colcom and others are helping clean up now, he said. "We hope to avoid those costs in the future."


Sean D. Hamill: shamill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2579.


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