Marcellus Shale talk in Mt. Lebanon draws 100
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One of the goals of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library is to provide information so people can make up their own minds about issues, and no topic is hotter in the region than Marcellus Shale gas drilling, said library director Cynthia Richey.
One evening last week, 100 people crowded into a basement room and overflowed into another room to hear a panel discussion about Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
People seemed "keenly interested" during the panel discussion, Ms. Richey said. Some audience members spoke out during the presentations, challenging the speakers and saying the environmental perspective wasn't full represented, but most just listened during the session, which ran a little more than two hours. After the panelists' presentations, Ms. Richey read questions submitted by audience members.
Mt. Lebanon resident Janet Thomas attended the discussion because she knows little about Marcellus Shale.
"My knowledge base is limited," she said. "I felt I needed to learn more."
To inform residents, Ms. Richey recruited panelists to represent government, industry and the environment. The panel members were Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition; Jack Ubinger of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council; Alan Eichler of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; and Dan Sandman, retired U.S. Steel executive and board member of T.W. Phillips Gas & Oil Co.
Mr. Eichler started the discussion by describing his agency's role and how the number of Marcellus Shale permits has grown over the past five years. In 2005, he said five permits were issued for Marcellus Shale wells. This year, 3,000 were issued. The Department of Environmental Protection has increased the size of its Marcellus Shale staff to issue permits, perform inspections and respond to complaints, Mr. Eichler said.
He showed the panel discussion attendees a list of the chemical additives used in the gas drilling process as well as diagrams of horizontal drilling versus vertical drilling and pictures of well sites.
Ms. Klaber showed a map of Marcellus wells by Pennsylvania county and discussed the current and future economic impact of shale development.
"There's a lot of opportunity for this part of the country to be a leader in energy development," she said.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has been paying close attention to what effect the drilling will have on the environment, Mr. Ubinger said.
He called Marcellus Shale "one of the seminal issues of our time" and said a predictable process is needed to regulate it.
Mr. Sandman also discussed regulating and focused on the positive impacts that could come from the rise of the natural gas industry here.
"This Marcellus Shale opportunity comes once in a lifetime, and we need to get it right," he said.
Cassie McCrae was one of several audience members who submitted questions on note cards to the panelists. Ms. McCrae attended the meeting as a resident but said she discusses the Marcellus Shale through her job at the Center for Coalfield Justice in Washington, Pa.
After the discussion, she said she still had questions about the possible environmental dangers and said she worries that the energy companies may be recklessly motivated in their pursuit of profit.
The panel also left Ms. Thomas with more questions, and she said she'll be reading more about Marcellus Shale to better inform herself.
The library plans to look at the issue again at another event next year, Ms. Richey said.
First Published December 9, 2010 12:00 am