HARRISBURG - A Senate Republican leader is drafting a bill to create a panel to address public health and safety issues stemming from drilling operations in the Marcellus Shale region.

President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, Jefferson County, wants a panel that includes doctors, scientists, academics and gas industry leaders to study public health data and scientific findings related to drilling.

In a memo to colleagues, Scarnati is proposing a nine-member panel including the state Health Secretary and appointees named by Gov. Tom Corbett and legislative leaders.

Creating the health panel will correct a deficiency with the state drilling impact fee law, said Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Nanticoke, ranking Democrat on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

As a companion piece, Yudichak is seeking action on a bill he sponsored to earmark $2 million in impact fees annually for a state population health registry.

The public won't be reassured about drilling until independent-funded public research is available, he said.

Currently, Scarnati's proposal would give those with appointive power discretion to name panelists with expertise in such high-profile health issues as the protection of drinking water, said top Scarnati aide Drew Crompton.

Scarnati's proposal would carry out a recommendation made last year by the governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

Meanwhile, the House gave final approval Tuesday to a bill allowing for gas drilling at the 14 state-owned universities and other unexplored state property and sent it to the governor for signing. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Don White, R-41, Indiana, allows for drilling for coal, oil and limestone, too.

A half-dozen of the state-owned universities are in the Shale formation. Penn State University and its branch campuses aren't affected.

Contact the writer: rswift@timesshamrock.com