By Nick Snow, Washington Editor
Kathryn Klaber quickly got to the point when she addressed the American Gas Association’s Natural Gas Roundtable luncheon on Nov. 29. “A lot of how this plays out is going to involve relationships, and how we work with local communities,” the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s (MSC) president and executive director said.
The organization is probably the most prominent industry advocate in the increasingly productive tight shale gas region. It’s also somewhat unique because it deals with residents and regulators in several states.
Coalition members have stepped up to meet the challenge, according to Klaber. “There’s a lot of talk about best practices, and how we go above and beyond regulations. The industry has to step up and explain how it will deal with any problems,” she said.
“The regulatory landscape is changing quickly,” she continued. “That doesn’t mean simply saying no, but actively having input on regulations to make sure they’re fair and effective.”
Klaber noted that Pennsylvania now has the country’s strictest dissolved solids law—500 ppm. MSC members also have quit disposing of water at grandfathered facilities, she said.
This comes as Marcellus shale gas development creates jobs and benefits local economies, she added. “The energy industry is contributing jobs not just at the wellsite and along the pipeline, but also in other industries, particularly chemicals, which sees new sources of secure supplies,” she said.
Competing for cracker
Places like Williamsport and Washington County, Pa., are among the nation’s top employment growth areas, Klaber pointed out. Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia are competing for an ethane cracker and its attendant jobs and economic benefits, she said.
Klaber said the states also have responded differently to the prospect of significantly more gas production: Pennsylvania moved quickly to modernize its water management and well-casing regulations. New York moved more carefully to make certain its laws address development impacts. Ohio moved aggressively to define roles for municipalities.
“Pennsylvania got it right, but not perfect, so that a lot of gas is being delivered to businesses and consumers. There’s room for improvement, and we’re working on that,” Klaber said. “But we’re ahead of New York, where there aren’t the necessary new regulations yet. I think that’s costing it business.”
Overcoming opposition remains a challenge, particularly in areas new to gas production, she conceded. “The freefall has stopped. We are doing well where operations are happening because we’re hiring. Our biggest remaining challenge is educating people where development isn’t happening—primarily urban areas,” Klaber said.
“We recognize there are a lot of legitimate questions about what’s happening out there because it’s happening fast,” she said.
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