Colcom Helps Fund Marcellus Shale Impact Studies

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
8 March 2011
By Sean D. Hamill,

In December, the Colcom Foundation said it would give $1 million in grants for organizations to study or educate the public about the environmental impact of the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry in the region.

But since then, the foundation said to its delight it got so many excellent grant applications -- 80 in all for a total of $7 million in funding requests -- that its board felt the need to expand the Marcellus Environmental Fund by $300,000 to $1.3 million.

"Without the extra funds, many of the requests would not have been funded," John Rohe, the foundation's vice president of philanthropy, said Monday in announcing the first round of grant awards. "It's gratifying to see this kind of enthusiastic response."

The foundation announced that 11 organizations were awarded grants that ranged from $40,000 to $150,000 for a total of $900,000 in Marcellus Shale-related research and education grants.

Organizations are now being asked to apply for similar grants from the $400,000 that remains in the fund. The deadline is Monday, with a decision on these new grants to be made in early May.

The first round of grants went to: Group Against Smog & Pollution, based in Pittsburgh; Clean Water Fund, a national organization with a Pennsylvania chapter; The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania Citizen Education; Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture; Conemaugh Valley Conservancy based in Hollsopple, Pa.; Elk County Conservation District; Evergreen Conservancy in Indiana, Pa.; Greene County Watershed Alliance; McKean County Conservation District; Mountain Watershed Association in Melcroft, Pa.; and Washington County Watershed Alliance.

The projects include educational work by The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, to monitoring work by the Washington County Watershed Alliance, to an attempt to come up with some best practices by Group Against Smog & Pollution (GASP).

Part of the reason for creating the fund was that Colcom -- which was created by the late Cordelia S. May, heiress to the Mellon family fortune -- hoped to try to avoid some of the environmental problems of past energy resource development here, such as with coal.

Mr. Rohe believes the grant winners can help do that with their work.

"What we see here, particularly through the enormous volunteer effort of some of these groups, is a serious recognition and interest in the community to ensure we don't receive the legacy costs like we did in the past," he said.

Sean D. Hamill: or 412-263-2579.