With the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) facing budget and staffing cuts, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney shareholders Shawn N. Gallagher and Howard J. Wein urged state Senate leaders to support Governor Corbett's proposed funding over that of the Pennsylvania House.

"The board has had to cut all of its staff," Gallagher told the Allegheny County Bar Association Journal in an article published July 15, 2011. "It's at a critical level," he said, having dropped from 22 staff members and judges to eight in successive budget cuts since 1995.

"As a result of the loss of personnel, the EHB has been hampered in its ability to hold hearings and to issue opinions," Gallagher wrote in a June 8 letter to the state Senate.

With only one administrative person on staff, judges type their own opinions, stymieing the efficiency of the board. The EHB handles appeals from the Department of Environmental Protection, and an uptick in the energy sector and Marcellus Shale activity has increased the board's caseload.

"These are important issues," Gallagher said, noting that any company looking to appeal DEP rulings will stifled by a back-logged system.

Wein assisted Gallagher in drafting the June 8 letter to the Senate, which was sent on behalf of the Allegheny County Bar Association's Environment and Energy Law Section.

"The purpose of the letter is to educate the state Senate and House about the importance of the EHB," he said, pointing out that though it's called a "board," the EHB actual operates as a court.

"A lot of people think it's like the boards governors set up," Wein continued. "They think it's not really important. It needs to be looked at as a court, not just a board."

Wein echoed Gallagher on the potential for an administrative back-up.

"In the future, there will be more and more appeals involving Marcellus Shale," he said. "[The judges] have to be there and be prepared to have hearings. They need to have the resources to function properly."

In a separate, personal letter, Wein urged the Senate to favor the governor's budget. Governor Corbett's funding plan "would enable the Board to restore funding for the fifth administrative law judge and hire the Secretary to the Board, essentially the Board's Clerk of Courts," said the letter.

The House bill, Wein wrote, "would prevent the appointment of a fifth administrative law judge and hiring the Secretary of the Board, but may necessitate additional staff cuts, while the EHB is already cut to the bone."