Environment
9:21 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

Shale Gas Potential Touted at Energy Conference

Representatives of businesses, labor unions, and all levels of government gathered at the 2012 Energy and Manufacturing Summit on Pittsburgh's South Side on Monday to praise the job-creating power of the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.

The event was held before a crowd of roughly thirty-five people at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' Hall on Hot Metal Street. The conference was hosted by the "Consumer Energy Alliance," and sponsored by businesses and unions. Business sponsors include Chevron, Range Resources, Shell, and US Steel; union sponsors include the IBEW and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE).

IOUE Local 66 Business Manager Jim Kunz said the pipe-laying and well pad construction jobs created by the shale gas industry have been a timely boost to his union as transportation funding has fizzled in Pennsylvania.

"What Marcellus Shale has done is came at the right time to begin to provide significant employment for my members," said Kunz, "and it actually has resulted in full employment instead of the double-digit unemployment we would have had, had we only been able to depend upon the building construction and the heavy road and bridge construction here in Pennsylvania and a little part of Ohio."

Kunz also praised state lawmakers and the Corbett administration for offering a $63 million tax credit package to Royal Dutch Shell to woo the company to build an ethane cracker facility in Beaver County.

"To be very blunt here, I think those opposed to the legislation just don't get it," said Kunz. "They feel that a highly profitable company such as Shell should not be given a tax break, and unfortunately, that's not how it works in the real world."

At the federal level, Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA18) said the US government should boost its $34 billion transportation budget by leasing federal land for shale gas wells.

"Thirty-four billion [dollars] would be eaten up by Pennsylvania in a year. It's just not enough," said Murphy. "Pennsylvania's going to get, I think, [$]1.59 billion. It's not enough even for Allegheny County. We do need more, and this is a revenue stream for this, in terms of royalties, lease agreements on federal properties, open lands, et cetera."

As for the city of Pittsburgh, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he's frustrated with the City Council for passing a ban on hydraulic fracturing when he said such activity is unlikely to happen in Pittsburgh in any case. He said the drilling ban discourages energy companies from moving operations to Pittsburgh, which is a central city in the Marcellus Shale region.

"And so here I am as the mayor, saying 'Look, we have office space. We're building office towers. PNC's building. Others are interested in investing. You can have a headquarters, office space in downtown Pittsburgh, with your name up on the skyline.' And they said, 'That's all well and good, but we don't want to move into a city that doesn't want us there,'" explained Ravenstahl.

The mayor said he's hopeful that the arrival of the Marcellus Shale industry could lower the city's unemployment rate.