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.
Seton Hill coach’s funeral to be held in Md.
BALTIMORE – A funeral for a pregnant Seton Hill University women’s lacrosse coach who died Saturday in a bus crash along the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be held in Baltimore.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore said a funeral Mass for 30-year-old Kristina Quigley will take place Friday at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church.
Quigley, a native of Baltimore, was about six months pregnant when she died, and her unborn child did not survive. She was married and had a young son.
The bus driver, 61-year-old Anthony Guaetta of Westmont, also died. His funeral is scheduled at 11 a.m. Friday at St. An-drew Catholic Church, 1621 Ferndale Ave. in Upper Yoder Township.
House nears vote on liquor privatization bill
HARRISBURG – A Republican plan designed to break down Pennsylvania’s Depression-era system of state-owned liquor stores passed a critical test Wednesday, leaving the measure poised to be approved by the House and sent to the state Senate.
The GOP majority easily defeated a “gut and replace” amendment sponsored by the ranking Democrat on the Liquor Control Committee, Rep. Paul Costa of Allegheny County, and the bill could pass the chamber during an unusual Thursday afternoon session that was quickly scheduled.
Krystjan Callahan, chief of staff to the House Majority Leader, Mike Turzai, declined to say whether he was sure the votes for final passage were there. But the 108-91 defeat of Costa’s proposal was strong evidence.
“Everybody in this chamber recognizes that our current system for selling alcohol in Pennsylvania is an anachronism, it’s old-fashioned, and it needs changed,” said Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, while debating Costa’s proposal. She called it “what essentially amounts to putting a new coat of paint on an old shed that’s falling down.”
The bill would give beer distributors the first shot at 1,200 wine and spirit licenses and open grocery stores to wine sales. Also, the state’s roughly 600 wine and spirits stores would be phased out as the number of private operators grows, so the state would remain in the liquor business at some level for an indefinite period.
The House on Wednesday approved seven amendments to the bill, including measures that would prohibit wine sales at self-checkout lines and encourage licenses to be spread geographically throughout counties.
Pa. Marine among those killed in Nevada blast
DuBOIS – The mother of a young man from Pennsylvania who was killed by an explosion during a training exercise said he wanted to be a Marine since he was a young boy.
Karen Perry met Wednesday with the Marine Corps to plan funeral arrangements for Pfc. Josh Martino, 19, a native of DuBois.
“Since he was probably 8 years old he wanted to be a Marine,” she said. “That’s all he wanted to do.”
She first heard a radio news report about the Monday accident at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, then three Marines showed up at her workplace on Tuesday to say he was one of the seven who were killed. Eight Marines were injured.
Comcast plans call center outside Harrisburg
PHILADELPHIA – Comcast Corp. says it’s planning a customer support center outside Harrisburg that will employ 425 people.
The Philadelphia-based cable giant said the center will be located in Susquehanna Township and is scheduled to open this summer. Employees there will provide support for Comcast’s residential products and services.
Comcast also operates five other call centers in Pennsylvania.
School set to vote on expulsion of teen actor
ASTON – A suburban Philadelphia school board is set to vote on whether to expel a teen actor who got into an altercation with his director while playing Daddy Warbucks in the musical “Annie.”
Seventeen-year-old Sun Valley High School senior Sam Schmucker is serving a suspension for the incident several weeks ago. The Delaware County Daily Times reported the Penn-Delco School Board was scheduled to vote Wednesday night whether to expel him.
Last week, Schmucker told the board that he got into the altercation with director John Baxter after his girlfriend complained to him about something Baxter said. Schmucker said he grabbed Baxter by the shirt and used “colorful language.”
The school suspended Schmucker and removed him from the play. His classmates have launched a social media campaign to support him.