Former governor calls for partnerships on shale

Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Monday, Feb. 7, 2011

WATERVILLE – Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge says partnerships among groups looking to protect the environment and the gas industry must occur for successful development of the Marcellus Shale.

Ridge, who appeared at the Marcellus Shale Coalition gathering here Friday to discuss environmental best practices, said too much misinformation about drilling and protecting water sources has been spreading.

“There’s a lot of skeptical people out there,” he said.

Ridge, who serves as a strategic adviser to the Coalition, an organization of natural gas companies and affiliated groups, said preserving the state’s landscape is important.

After all, hunting, fishing, the outdoors are part of the state’s culture.

“With opportunity comes responsibility,” he said.

But Ridge assured government and gas industry officials who met at the Tiadaghton State Forest Resource Management Center along Pine Creek that drilling companies are very experienced at what they do.

Nevertheless, people are uncertain what to expect.

“There is a great deal of misinformation, but there is also a great deal of emotion,” he said.

Ridge’s words were echoed by others in attendance.

State Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said certain people will never be convinced that the gas industry will mean anything but harm to the environment.

“No matter what you tell some people they won’t believe you,” he said. “It’s almost like (they say) ‘don’t confuse me with the facts’.”

Ridge noted that drilling for the state’s natural gas helps wean the nation off its dependence on foreign oil.

“The Lord gave us these resources,” he said.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Engineering Manager Scott Cheseboro noted that the company is taking great pains to protect groundwater that many fear will be contaminated in the fracking process.

And so far, its record has been good.

“We do not have any gas water migrations in any of our operations,” he said.

Anadarko is a big part of the Marcellus Shale industry, he said, with most of its operations in Lycoming, Clinton and Centre counties, including a lot of state forest land.

The industry is attracting more people to the area, according to officials.

Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce Vice President Jason Fink said the county’s most recent jobless figure stands at 8.2 percent.

That’s slightly below the state’s overall 8.5 percent mark for December, according to state Labor Department Statistics.

The nation’s jobless mark stood at 9.4 percent for that month.

Yaw said Bradford County has especially reaped the fruits of the Marcellus Shale boom, with many people there securing gas industry and related jobs.

“It’s just exploding,” he said.

Still, areas of his legislative district, especially below Interstate 80, refuse to buy into the industry’s benefits.

“Certain groups of people we are never going to convince,” he said.