HARRISBURG, PA – Law enforcement officers and biologists with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) will begin conducting field inspections of active drilling sites for Marcellus Shale gas wells beginning next month, the agency announced today.

"Until now our agency has only reacted to those drilling sites where a problem resulted in material entering a waterway or wetlands," said Dr. Douglas Austen, PFBC executive director. "We are now taking a proactive approach to identify possible problems at a drilling site and to work with the company to ensure necessary measures are in place to minimize the possibility of damaging nearby waterways."

The agency will focus on those well sites that are in close proximity to Commonwealth waterways, including wetlands. The inspections will determine if adequate measures are in place at the drilling site and access roads to prevent damage to the nearby aquatic resources. As part of the inspections, PFBC staff will also be obtaining water quality data from several locations in the nearby waterway.

"The commission recognizes the need for and importance of the development of the Marcellus Shale for gas production and believes it can be accomplished in a manner that provides protection to Pennsylvania's valuable aquatic resources," Austen added. "Because of the importance of this issue, waterways conservation officers and field staff have set aside other job duties and functions for a period of time in order to conduct these field inspections."

More than 150 active well sites have been identified so far for inspections, which are expected to take place over the next several months.

The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth's aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit their website at www.fishandboat.com.