Energy. Environment. Economy.

Thousands rally in Harrisburg to support Marcellus Shale development

IMG_4127Thousands of supporters of natural gas development marched to the steps of the state Capitol in Harrisburg today. Estimates of up to 3,000 people from all over the state hopped on buses and turned out for the day-long event, hosted by the state’s main gas industry trade group—the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Bob Beck works for a company called New Pig Energy, which builds liners to help contain spills.

He lives outside State College and came to the Capitol to show his support for what he feels is a misunderstood business.

“I think there’s a lot of people who really don’t understand the industry,” he says. “They feel there’s a lot of contamination that goes on. I don’t think really realize everything the industry does to prevent that from happening.”

Others at the rally felt the same way.

Wendy Driscoll works in business development for a Pittsburgh-based construction company that builds and maintains roads and gas wellpads.

“Everyone should be concerned about the environment and the oil and gas industry definitely has those concerns in mind,” she says. “I work in the industry and I’m thankful to be a part of it. I’ve only been in it for three years and it’s given me the opportunity to make a very good living.”

The rally began at Metro Bank Park on Harrisburg’s City Island, where supporters put on red, white, and blue t-shirts with the slogan, “Pennsylvania Jobs, Pennsylvania Energy.”

Ed Valentas is a land manager for Huntley & Huntley, a gas exploration company based outside Pittsburgh.

“This is—to Pittsburgh anyway—the steel industry on steroids. We need this.”

About 30,000 people in Pennsylvania work directly in oil and gas jobs and Valentas points out there are many other spillover effects.

“[Truck] drivers, laborers, welders, instrument people, electricians. Inside the company—HR, accounting. It’s pervasive. It trickles down.”

It’s difficult to quantify the overall jobs impact.

Industry boosters often cite a figure closer to 200,000– by counting workers in related industries—however that number has been called questionable by independent economists.

Environmental groups have also raised serious questions about shale gas development. A small group of anti-fracking protesters came out to participate in a counter-rally.

Arlene Taylor was among them. She’s a retired state worker who opposes gas drilling—she’s concerned about its effects on air and water quality.

She held up a sign that read, “You Can’t Drink Money.”

“It’d be wonderful if we could do this safely and have clean natural gas,” she says. “But right now that’s not what it is.”

Several other environmental groups hired an airplane to fly around the Capitol with the message that shale gas is a dirty form of energy.

“We didn’t feel it was appropriate to stage some kind of counter-rally,” says Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum. “We felt that using social media and the airplane was the best way to accomplish our goal to get people informed about shale.”

Marcellus Shale Coalition President Dave Spigelmeyer says that’s precisely why his group held the rally.

“Our opponents are passionate. They’re not many, but they’re passionate,” he says. “We wanted to show we have an equal amount of passion in broad segments of the Commonwealth that stand up and fight to continue to produce Pennsylvania energy.”

With the gubernatorial primaries just two weeks away, Spigelmyer says the message to Harrisburg is simple: this industry has broad support.

“We have a competitive playing field in Pennsylvania to invest capital, let’s celebrate that.”

Although Governor Corbett doesn’t not have a Republican challenger in the primary, all of his Democratic opponents favor some kind of a tax on gas extraction. A few Republican lawmakers have also stated support for such a levy.

Right now gas companies pay an impact fee for each well they drill. Over the past three years, the fees have brought in about $630 million.



  • Alexander Lotorto

    Oh look! Union members scabbing on people who have to live with the toxic effects of the gas industry. Pete Seeger had a song, “Casey Jones”, about what happens to scabs.

    • Pragmatism wins

      What about the people that have to live with the toxic effects of your B.S.? Using unfounded scare tactics to advance your agenda. Dick Cheney would be so proud, Alex.

    • merrill

      Isn’t it nice that the Koch boys can buy just about anything EVEN paying their staff people to be a support group. These Koch boys own a lot of fracking activity even in Canada which is why they want the pipeline.

      Keep it all in Canada thank you….all of it.

  • wendylynnelee

    For a good look at what this rally was really about, and what those jobs claims really amount to, go here:

  • wendylynnelee

    From the Multistate Research
    Collaborative, 2013 report:

    “While shale-related employment has made a positive contribution to job growth, the number of jobs created is far below industry claims and remains a small share
    of overall employment in the region.

    Between 2005 and 2012, less than four new direct shale-related jobs have been created for each new well drilled, much less than estimates as high as 31 direct jobs per well in some industry-financed studies.

    Region-wide, shale-related employment accounts for just one out of every 794 jobs. By contrast, education and health sectors account for one out of every six jobs.

    Job growth in the industry has been greatest (as a share of total employment) in
    West Virginia. Still, shale-related employment is less than 1 percent of total
    West Virginia employment and less than half a percent of total employment in
    all the other states.

    Many of the core extraction jobs existed before the emergence of hydrofracking.

    Together, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia had 38 percent of all producing wells in the country in 1990 and 32 percent in 2000.

    Some counties with a long history of mineral extraction have experienced a shift in employment from coal to shale extraction.

    Industry employment projections have been overstated.

    Some industry supporters have equated “new hires” with “new jobs” and attributed ancillary job figures to shale drilling even when they have nothing to do with drilling.

    Industry-funded studies have used questionable assumption in economic modeling to inflate the number of jobs created in related supply chain industries (indirect jobs) as well as those created by the spending of income earned from the industry or its suppliers (induced jobs).

    Drilling is highly sensitive to price fluctuations, which means that job gains may not be lasting.

    In some counties, employment gains have been reversed as drilling activity shifted
    to more lucrative oil shale fields in Ohio and North Dakota.

    Direct shale-related employment across the six-state Marcellus/Utica region fell over the last 12 months for which there are data — the first quarter 2012 to the
    first quarter 2013.”

  • George Wythe

    This work has supported so many union workers it empties our union locals. Because of that, the union locals who control the areas where the drilling, pipelines, compressor stations, etc., are under construction, those locals have to hire members from other locals in the nation, which is normal, but ALL WORKERS are in a national UNION. That’s a fact for you bozo’s who don’t believe it. Of course if you believe foolish reports by the phony ‘research’ bunch who are campaigning propaganda against PA Gov. Tom Corbett for groups of A-holes like Heinz Endowments and Park Foundation , or picket a pipeline like a lawn-mowing idiot, you might doubt that.

  • Schratboy

    “Steel industry on steroids. We need this.” Steel=incredible polluter. Steroids are the epitome of disease-inducing drugs. Pretty much sums up fracking.

  • Scott Miller

    So Delaware Riverkeeper hired a piston powered aircraft to stage an ‘environmental’ protest. OK

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