Pennsylvanians Debate Handling the Marcellus 'Gas Rush', Reports NGI

DULLES, Va.--()--As far as Pennsylvania is concerned, the third time is a charm. Unlike the experience of the last century with the exploitation of other natural resources, today the keystone state is going to get the handling of the natural "gas rush" right.

"We've heard before about a gold rush and a coal rush in those periods of our history. Today we're in a gas rush. Those other economic booms brought great prosperity, but also they left scars on the land and also unfortunately on workers," said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). "We can't repeat the mistakes of the past that have caused damage to Pennsylvania's health and landscape. We must make sure -- and I believe we must demand -- that corporate profits are not put ahead of safe drinking water for our children and our families."

Companies expecting to draw natural gas from Pennsylvania's prolific Marcellus Shale should be prepared to pay a severance tax, offer jobs to the state's residents and abide by a growing list of regulations, Casey and other state officials said Thursday in a panel discussion on "Marcellus Shale Opportunities & Challenges," reported by Natural Gas Intelligence (NGI). It was the first in a series of forums presented by Marywood University in Scranton, PA.

"In each and every case of resource extraction in this state, we got it wrong," said John Quigley, secretary of the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). "We privatized profits and we socialized cost, and those costs are still being borne by us today."

Quigley's department recently issued a report concluding that there is no unleased state forest acreage suitable for natural gas development remaining in the state. Of the approximately 1.5 million acres of Marcellus land in Pennsylvania's state forests, about 600,000 acres is currently under lease. "We've reached the limit because any further leasing will involve ecologically and environmentally sensitive areas, wild and natural areas, old growth forests, some of the most pristine environmental experiences anywhere in the United States, and we need to draw the line and say 'enough is enough,'" Quigley said.

According to Casey, efforts must be made to ensure that the Marcellus rush is "creating jobs for Pennsylvanians." He said he has introduced a bill to help increase on-the-job training so more Marcellus jobs will be claimed by state residents and he plans to introduce legislation aimed at improving emergency response services at oil and gas wells. Casey has also introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act to require the disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing processes.

NGI reported Casey received the loudest ovation of the day from an audience of about 150 when he said that "if the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process are not harmful and cannot compromise health and safety, or contaminate drinking water, or compromise the groundwater, or put the public risk -- if all of that is OK, then why can't we shine the light of disclosure on that process? I think we should."

Natural gas in the shale play is "like gold," according to Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), whose district covers a portion of Pennsylvania's easternmost Marcellus area.

"It's been discovered and the gold rush is here," Kanjorski said. "We should be smart enough to welcome our new citizens that are coming, our new business people that are coming. Just make sure that we have an understanding -- an unwritten contract -- 'don't exploit us, we'll work with you; exploit us and you can't imagine the bothersomeness we can be to you.'"

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Contacts

Intelligence Press Inc.
James Geanakos, 703/318-8848
james@intelligencepress.com