A veteran of the natural gas industry, David Spigelmyer was tapped to lead the Marcellus Shale Coalition last October, taking over the reins of an organization he helped to found. As the coalition’s president, he is serving as the industry’s representative to the public during a time of unprecedented and rapid growth. Among his aims is to show development of the shale fields is ultimately a good thing, economically speaking, and can be done safely and responsibly. It’s a message he’s delivering to an audience he knows well — he grew up in DuBois, Clearfield County, and has spent his career working in and around the shale basin.
How did you get into the natural gas business?
I graduated from college in 1982 from Penn State (University). Shortly after, I went to work for a juvenile detention home. And then fairly quickly, I went to manage a program at my hometown YMCA. I started a program called the DuBois Management Club, in which companies once a quarter would get together and talk about their profile for the area. (On one occasion) National Fuel Gas had given their pitch. I had a chance to talk with their president, and he asked me if I would be interested in working with National Fuel Gas. I began a training program in late 1983 and then became a consumer business manager, managing customer accounting.
What motivates you?
I grew up in central Pennsylvania, and I watched nearly my entire high school class leave town to seek a job. I see an extraordinary opportunity today for us to allow our kids to have job opportunities here at home, to have a family sustaining job and to help rebuild the manufacturing base back here in the region through the affordable energy that this industry has created. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to help this industry be successful, to demystify it to the public, and to give the public the opportunity to realize what an extraordinary opportunity we have at our fingertips. I take it as a deep responsibility to make sure we can continue to produce natural gas. I think it holds the key for the manufacturing and industrial regrowth of (the area).
What’s been the most difficult part of the job so far?
Education of the public and demystifying the things that we do is job No. 1 every day. The toughest part of the job is to continue the drumbeat of factual information. Folks who disagree with what we’re doing can fit their claims on a bumper sticker. Everything we do and everything we say is based on facts and data. It doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, but it’s work we have to do every single day to make sure folks realize what’s actually happening in the field. The great part of it is that over time we’ve seen polling data that would suggest more folks year after year understand what an important part of our economy and what an important of our energy mix natural gas has become as a result of shale gas development.
What challenges do you see ahead?
I think the biggest challenge we have is that, year over year, we’ve continued to produce more and more gas. We’ve become more efficient in our operations. The challenge that we have today is to get the (pipeline) infrastructure built and to create a window for us to be able to complete infrastructure projects. If I listed it as a goal, my ultimate goal is to see manufacturing regrowth in the Pittsburgh region, in the state and across the country that we lost years ago.
What is your goal for the coalition?
My goal is to provide predictability and certainty in what we’re trying to accomplish here in Pennsylvania, create job opportunities for Pennsylvanians, allow our kids to stay home and produce a domestic energy source that’s going to change the economic outlook of this country for generations.
What’s next for the coalition?
We’re moving the Shale Insight conference back to Pittsburgh. We’ve got a great lineup of speakers, and we’ll likely have in excess of 2,000 participants here in town.
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