MSC, Industry Visionaries Honored at Pittsburgh Business Times Energy Leadership Awards

Canonsburg, PA – Recognizing “two organizations and seven individuals – who played a key role in shaping western Pennsylvania’s energy industry,” the Pittsburgh Business Times (PBT) held its inaugural Energy Leadership Awards last night, attracting community and business leaders from across the region. In addition to recognizing the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) as the “official voice for industry,” five MSC member companies were honored for their contributions in shaping the regions fastest growing industry.

Following are excerpts from the paper’s event coverage, which profiled awardees; full coverage available HERE:

  • Bill Zagorski, vice president of geology, Range Resources. “Meet the man behind the Marcellus Shale… The first well Bill Zagorski ever worked on was a 1980 shallow oil project in Cecil Township, where Range Resources, the first company to tap into the Marcellus Shale in the early 2000s, now has a massive Appalachian headquarters, attributed, in large part, to Zagorski’s vision. The turning point came in 2004, when Zagorski, who had been leading exploration efforts in reservoirs below the Marcellus in Pennsylvania, was having little luck coming up with a feasible extraction plan and decided he needed to get away. He took a trip to Texas to visit a geologist friend who took him down to the Barnett Shale, which was just getting started. “I’m in the middle of the biggest thing going and I’m $6 million in the hole, and nobody else is going to stand up and say, ‘Let’s do this,’” he recalled thinking at the time. “I could have said, ‘This is enough. They’re going to fire me if I ask for another expensive project. I don’t want to go through the rejection.’” But he didn’t. He took the idea to Jeff Ventura, then a newly appointed CEO and vice president of Range, who approved the effort.
  • J. Brett Harvey, chairman and CEO, CONSOL Energy Inc. “As head of CONSOL, Harvey presses for domestic fuel use… You could say energy is J. Brett Harvey’s heritage with no exaggeration. A fourth generation coal miner whose career began as a longwall supervisor at Kaiser Steel Co.’s Sunnyside Mine in his native Utah in 1979, Harvey was running it within three years. Now, Harvey is not only at the helm of CONSOL Energy Inc. and CNX Gas, among the country’s biggest coal and coalbed methane gas producers, but he is also an industry advocate eager to educate the public on the importance of the United States capitalizing on its energy resources. “This is not a job for me — it’s a pleasure to come to work,” he said. “Every day, I get new ideas and better ways of doing things from people, and I like that.” Harvey’s emphasis on safety also plays into his community commitments. His directorships are largely industry related, but he’s also a member of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board and is a director of the local council.”
  • Murry Gerber, executive chairman, EQT Corp. “An unusual cross-country road trip epitomizes Murry Gerber’s 33-year commitment to the development of fossil fuels, such as natural gas and oil. He is scheduled on May 13 to complete a 3,375-mile trip to promote awareness of natural gas as a viable fuel alternative for vehicles. He and his wife, Cindy, flew to Santa Monica, Calif., in late April and are driving their natural gas-powered Hummer back home to Pittsburgh, marking the first time such a journey has been made from coast to coast. “This trip definitely fits in with what I’ve done throughout my career,” Gerber said. “I wanted to do it to demonstrate that natural gas can be used for something other than buses. I also want to bring attention to the need for more natural gas fueling stations. We have about 950 of these stations in the United States now, but we need at least 350 more.” Under Gerber’s watchful eyes, EQT has grown to become the 14th-largest natural gas producer in the United States and the largest in the Appalachian Basin…”
  • Richard Weber, former president, Atlas Energy Inc. “An investment banker by training, Richard Weber said he was drawn to working with energy securities because of the industry’s entrepreneurial spirit and excitement. “I was really attracted to that,” he said. “I think it’s an important industry. It’s really the backbone of our economy, and I loved being a part of that.” When he jumped from investment banking to Atlas Energy Inc. in 2006, he harnessed a bit of the entrepreneurial spirit by not only joining the company but helping to take it public and positioning it within the burgeoning Marcellus Shale. In 2006 and 2007, Weber helped the company secure its land position within the Marcellus, even though information about the formation was still fluid. In April 2010, the company formed a $1.7 billion joint venture with India’s largest private company, Reliance Industries. Just a few months later, Atlas announced it was being acquired for $4.3 billion by Chevron. “I’m proud Chevron chose to keep all the Marcellus Shale employees and offered retention bonuses,” Weber said. “It says a lot about the people we assembled.”
  • Terry Pegula, former owner, East Resources Inc. “In what is among the first major fortunes derived from the promise of the Marcellus Shale, Pegula cashed in the company he spent years developing when he sold Warrendale-based East Resources Inc. to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion last year. Lou D’Amico, president and executive director of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, learned early on to expect success from Pegula, who at the time was a fellow student in the petroleum engineering program at Penn State. “He was always a bright guy. I guess I’m not particularly shocked at how successful he’s been,” D’Amico said. I think he had a long-term belief in oil and gas production in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Not just the Marcellus, but even before the Marcellus.” “I grew up poor. My father never owned our own house. We rented a house,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer in September. His humble beginnings are rooted in the energy industry in which he would later generate a thriving company, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that his father worked as a coal miner, truck driver and mechanic.”
  • Marcellus Shale Coalition. Kathryn Klaber has become the face and voice of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a nonprofit, Canonsburg-based trade group that has proven to be every bit as nimble and fast-growing as the young industry it represents. “It’s core to our strategy, our mission to be responsive, proactive,” Klaber said. The coalition has grown to 185 members from 12 in 2008, when it was founded, as consumers have begun to reap some economic benefits of Marcellus gas development. “They’ve done an exceptional job of messaging and making sure they’re singing from the same page in the hymnal,” said John Nikoloff, founder and partner at PA Energy Resources Group, a lobbying group based in Harrisburg. “They haven’t allowed themselves to be on the defensive while getting out positive information.” … “They’re clearly the go-to organization for the industry, [Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky].”