A Pennsylvania Perspective: Getting it right for the commonwealth

Kathryn Z. Klaber
Towanda Daily Review
June 5, 2011

What do computers, medical equipment and fertilizer have in common? If you guessed not much, think again.

These products – like 96 percent of all manufactured goods we use in our daily lives – are made possible by chemistry. A critical component involved in the manufacturing process is clean-burning natural gas. Without natural gas, the things we use and take for granted in our daily lives, as well as standard of living, would be much different.

To many consumers, natural gas is traditionally thought of as an energy source used to heat our homes, generate electricity and cook our meals. However, this clean-burning and abundant American energy resource is used as a feedstock in countless everyday household and consumer products.

Farmers use fertilizer to grow our food supplies. Windmills and solar panels require composite materials to generate renewable energy. Chemical companies manufacture polymers used as the foundation for plastics, paints and other industrial products that help make our way of life possible.

It’s a story of natural gas that’s been largely untold. It’s a story of how the natural gas industry – through the increased development of shale gas reserves – is playing a vital and growing role in the reemergence of the American manufacturing industry. It’s a story of our family farms remaining intact, and not being sold for residential or commercial development.

Residents across the Commonwealth’s northern tier are well aware of the Marcellus shale. We continue to read and hear about – and in many cases see firsthand – the thousands of jobs created and wealth generated due to Marcellus production. Lines at local diners and filling stations are indeed noticeable, as well as increased traffic on our roads. Many continue to question the environmental impact of natural gas development, too.

Debate and civil discourse certainly have an important place in this ongoing discussion. Many overwhelmingly support Marcellus development, while others are calling for nothing short of a ban. Some, too, remain on the fence, and are seeking more information about this important issue.

By and large, though, Pennsylvanians support responsible Marcellus development. They also want to ensure that our environment is protected and our drinking water quality is maintained. As a lifelong resident of the Commonwealth, and now raising a family here in Pennsylvania, I could not agree more. It is incumbent upon our industry to address these legitimate concerns in a straightforward way, grounded in facts and science. Simply put, our environment and the safety of our workers and of the communities in which we operate are paramount as this historic opportunity moves forward.

Through the implementation of new and strengthened well construction regulations, increased permitting fees – which enabled the state to hire additional inspectors without any added taxpayer burden – and partnering with scientists to develop technologies to better protect our environment, our industry has demonstrated its committed to “getting it right.” These aren’t just words, of course. They are the Guiding Principles that our industry lives and works by each day.

Will there be rare incidents when things may go wrong, just as they do in any industrial process? Without doubt. But through sharing of best practices, operating in a transparent manner and promoting a civil dialogue among all stakeholders, the Marcellus Shale Coalition – each of our nearly 190 member companies, which have helped created nearly 140,000 Pennsylvania jobs – is working tirelessly to address concerns, and to be good neighbors.

The natural gas industry has been operating in Pennsylvania for more than 100 years. Through the responsible development of the Marcellus Shale – operating in a transparent and environmentally responsible manner – it’s our goal to be here for decades to come.

“Getting it right” is not a choice; it’s a self-imposed mandate. It’s what is expected of us by our neighbors, communities and every citizen of the Commonwealth. It’s a pledge we’ve made, and one upon which we know we’ll be judged.

Editor’s Note: Kathryn Klaber is the president and executive director of the Canonsburg, Pa.-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. Visit www.MarcellusCoalition.org to learn more.