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Doubt about drilling road investment, jobs in Pennsylvania

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Drillers have spent $411 million in Pennsylvania to tidy up roads.

Drillers in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania like to tout their $411 million investment in road improvements, but what the effect of that investment has been is unclear according to the state's highway administration.  Jon Schmitz reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the state is studying the impact of heavy drilling equipment on the state's roads, county by county:

Some statistics quoted by PennDOT and state police officials at the event suggested that some bar-raising is needed. State police Maj. Harvey Cole Jr. said that in response to significant increases in truck traffic, the department had conducted 5,800 roadside inspections of industry trucks since January 2010 and found 13,000 driver and vehicle safety violations, including 2,800 serious enough to put the driver or truck out of service. In all, 42 percent of the inspections resulted in pulling drivers or vehicles out of service, he said. The national average for all truck inspections is 24 percent. "We've found that the industry has a higher out-of-service rate than the overall commercial vehicle industry," said Kevin Stewart, program administrator for the department's commercial vehicle safety section.

Drilling jobs

A spokesman for Pennsylvania's labor department is calling into question the 72,000 "new hires" made as a result of drilling in the Marcellus Shale, reports Paul McMullen at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Labor Department spokesman Christopher Manlove said new hires do not equate to new jobs. The difference, he said, is that new jobs are jobs that didn't exist previously, whereas new hires are jobs that became available due to employees resigning, retiring or being fired. Still, "we believe Marcellus Shale represents some of the fastest-growing employment opportunities," he said. Susan Christopherson, professor in the department of city and regional planning at Cornell University, agrees with Manlove's assessment. "According to federal policy, the difference between new hires and new jobs is that with a new hire you are getting credit for hiring you would have done anyway," she said.

Air quality

At NPR, Elizabeth Shogren looks at the health concerns associated with natural gas drilling, particularly related to air quality:

In the hilly countryside of the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, Kristen Judy and her mother, Pam, are getting an early whiff of the air pollution problem that could be on the way from the Marcellus gas industry. "It just hits you in the face and about knocks you over," says Kristen Judy. "It smells like some kind of petroleum but you can't pinpoint it," Pam Judy adds. They're talking about fumes from a gas compressor station that went in three years ago just 700 feet from their house.

Ohio drilling

Ohio is on the cusp of opening up state parks for gas drilling, reports Bloomberg BusinessWeek.  The governor has signaled that he'll sign a bill to that effect, that's already passed the legislature.

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