Gas industry group launches election season ad blitz
With election day just over a month away, Pennsylvania’s biggest gas industry trade group is launching a statewide ad campaign to promote the benefits of the drilling boom and reclaim the word “fracking.”
At its annual Shale Insight conference Wednesday, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) announced it’s running a series of radio, television, and print ads in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to break through the clutter of the messages and specifically go after the negative publicity surrounding the word ‘fracking’,” says Michael Pavone of the Harrisburg ad agency behind the campaign. “We use the opposition’s word and expand on how fracking is making a positive difference.”
The commercials will promote how the industry has contributed jobs, lowered natural gas prices, and generated revenue for the state through Act 13’s impact fee.
Companies currently pay the fee each time they drill a well. Since it was signed into law by Governor Corbett, the fee has brought in an average of $210 million per year, with the majority of the money going back to the local communities that host drillers.
However Corbett’s Democratic challenger, York businessman Tom Wolf, is proposing a five percent severance tax which would be levied on drillers’ overall gas production.
“The impact fee is indeed is a tax,” says Pavone.
The commercials also cite 240,000 direct and indirect Pennsylvania jobs as “supporting shale development.” However as StateImpact Pennsylvania has previously reported, independent economists have questioned that figure.
MSC President Dave Spigelmyer wouldn’t say how much money the group is spending, but he expects the ads to run through early 2015. Although the commercials don’t endorse any candidates, it’s no accident they’re timed to run right before Pennsylvanians go to the polls on November 4th.
“Certainly the election season has heightened this issue,” says Spigelmyer. “We felt necessary, as a board of directors of the MSC, that we need to set the record straight– that we are hiring Pennsylvanians, that we are properly regulated, and that we’re paying our fair share.”
The new ads follow other recent efforts by the industry to publicly flex its political muscles. Shortly before the primary elections last May, the MSC staged a large pro-gas rally on the steps of the state Capitol in Harrisburg.