Centre Daily Times op-ed: Gas industry helps out in time of need

By Laurie Alberts Salita

[Natural gas] industry representatives have acted like good neighbors. In the days after [Tropical Storm] Lee’s wrath, producers, developers and service companies alike worked with Pennsylvanians to assist residents, preserve the land, protect the waterways and rebuild the roads.

Tropical Storm Lee deposited record-breaking rainwater in north and central Pennsylvania on Sept. 7, drowning the landscape in about 19 counties. Although circumstances of Lee’s wrath may seem eerily similar to that of Hurricane Agnes 39 years ago, something is different this time.

The Marcellus Shale gas industry was not there in 1972. But, thankfully, it is there now.

Stories exemplifying the shale gas industry’s efforts abound and dilute anti-development rhetoric that the industry does not care.

For example, the Williamsport Chamber of Commerce and First Community Foundation have jointly coordinated a flood relief fund that will provide assistance for local nonprofit organizations, governments and small businesses. The chamber has received pledges totaling at least $150,000, largely from natural gas developers, producers and service companies.

In addition to a $50,000 contribution to the relief fund, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is working with local municipalities, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection to repair damaged infrastructure.

Chief Oil & Gas earmarked $50,000 for the fund and donated $150,000 to Bradford, Susquehanna, Sullivan and Wyoming counties and to the Red Cross of Wyoming Valley for debris removal, cleaning supplies and other products and services according to the recipients’ needs. Chief’s Lycoming County office purchased blow-up mattresses and supplies for a shelter that housed evacuees.

Lycoming County also will benefit from donations by Alberts Spray Solutions LLC (a company that provides environmentally friendly liners for containment in the Marcellus Shale region), Ralph S. Alberts Co. Inc. and Cascade Land Clearing. Alberts will provide $10,000 to the relief fund and $5,000 to Susquehanna Health. Alberts also donated a truck to a family whose home was ravaged by floodwater, and its representatives spent days providing food and supplies to many local families.

W.J. Choate, co-owner of Cascade Land Clearing, donated and delivered supplies to local shelters.

Tug Hill Inc. pledged $50,000 for flood relief efforts. EXCO Resources Pennsylvania donated $100,000, and Williams committed $40,000 to nonprofit organizations in Wyoming, Luzerne and Susquehanna counties.

The Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce received pledges of more than $200,000 from Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Williams, Southwestern Energy, Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc., Chief and Citrus Energy in response to an email seeking assistance.

Chesapeake Energy offered the use of 50 dump trucks, loaders, several water trucks and significant manpower for emergency and cleanup efforts. Field operations were suspended while the company teamed with local emergency-response personnel to provide aid. Great Plains Oilfield Rentals also provided meals for volunteers and local Athens residents.

Employees from Range Resources facilitated the rescue of more than 60 Lycoming County residents. Likewise, the Williamsport field office of Stallion Oilfield Services provided the heavy equipment and personnel necessary to save a family of three when their home was rapidly surrounded by floodwater, providing them no avenue to escape.

Stallion also provided equipment and resources to protect pollution of local water supplies when a pond at the Lycoming County Landfill began to overflow.

Industry representatives have acted like good neighbors. In the days after Lee’s wrath, producers, developers and service companies alike worked with Pennsylvanians to assist residents, preserve the land, protect the waterways and rebuild the roads.

Their aid was not requested. The law did not require it. There were no regulations in place mandating financial contributions or restoration efforts.

Like politics and gun control, whether or not development by the shale gas industry benefits the Marcellus region is a topic often hotly debated among Pennsylvanians. Stories like these should be considered in the debate.

Laurie Alberts Salita is a lawyer at Blank Rome LLP who practices primarily in products liability, mass tort and aviation litigation.

NOTE: Click HERE to view this op-ed online. Also, click HERE to view the MSC’s Sept. 22 press release, “MSC Member Companies Contribute to Northern PA Flood Relief and Recovery Efforts.”