ShareThis Page

Natural-gas impact to last generations

| Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, 9:00 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA — The Marcellus shale rock layer is just one of three under the Appalachian region that could produce natural gas for generations, Range Resources Corp. Executive Chairman John H. Pinkerton said at an industry conference here on Friday.

“We've just scratched the surface here,” said Pinkerton. “This is bigger than even I thought. It's bigger than I thought six years ago, it's bigger than I thought six months ago, it's bigger than I thought three months ago, it's bigger than I thought one month ago. All of our producers are making incredible progress.”

The Marcellus shale is the best-known of the region's gas riches, but the basin has at least three gas-rich levels, including the Utica and the Upper Devonian. Texas-based Range Resources has about 700,000 acres of land in the region, but effectively wields three times as much control because there are three layers, Pinkerton said.

They're all profitable — allowing enough room for many drillers to succeed, he said.

His remarks came on the second day of the second Shale Gas Insight conference in Philadelphia, organized by industry group Marcellus Shale Coalition.

With generations of impact on the horizon, it's critically important that drillers collaborate to ensure their work meets the highest standards for health and environmental safety, Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund said during a panel discussion. Drilling isn't temporary — the risks involving waste disposal, air quality and the state's wilderness are extended the same length of time the business benefits are, Brownstein and another conservationist said.

Conflict in the public and in the courts about drilling is “driven by the sense that neither the regulators or the industry have their arms around this,” Brownstein said. “Many of you in the room know that not to be the case. And I don't think that needs to be the case. But, if you step outside of your industry and you step outside of places like Pennsylvania where this is going on, you'll find that there's a tremendous amount of skepticism here.”

Several industry officials and consultants discussed creating regional centers akin to accrediting agencies for colleges to ensure that companies meet high standards.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition has done small-scale work to collaborate and challenge its members to meet higher standards, said Andrew Paterson, the group's vice president for technical and regulatory affairs. Another group covering larger-scale efforts could help, but public acceptance of the industry often comes naturally, too, as long-term benefits materialize, he said.

“When the community has had enough time to get used to the oil and gas industry, it tends to be embraced,” said Paterson, a member of the panel. “When your neighbor has a job or one of your family members has a job in the oil and gas industry, it tends to become a part of the fabric of the community.”

Long-term drilling actually could change the fabric of Pennsylvania, an especially big risk for development in central Pennsylvania's wilderness, said Dale E. Fox, executive director at the DuBois-based Headwaters Resource Conservation & Development Council.

“These people can make good partners to work with, but ... we need the industry to be sensitive to the culture of the place they're coming into, and that's one thing they could still do some work on,” she said.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.