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Shale industry development creating excitement in Mon Valley

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Joy M. Ruff is excited about the economic opportunities that Marcellus shale is creating in the region – and believes everyone should be.

“If you're not excited I've failed today, because this is a special opportunity,” Ruff said Tuesday.

Ruff, community outreach manager for the Marcellus shale coalition, along with Susan Oliver, manager/community relations for WPX Energy, were the guest speakers for a panel discussion on “Economies of Marcellus Shale and its Supply Chain.”

Hosted by the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event was held at the Anthony Lombardi Education Conference Center at Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township.

Oliver said Marcellus shale wells being dug in Washington and Westmoreland counties currently have a 30- to 50-year lifetime.

Oliver said so much natural gas is available in Pennsylvania that it more than meets the state's needs. Less than 10 percent of the gas drilled in the state is being exported.

She said WPX Energy is involved in the community in such organizations as Junior Achievement and the Challenge Program.

Ruff said shale development is having a ripple effect on the region's economy.

“This is the future of America,” Ruff said. “Shale development is a game changer.

“This is a global phenomenon. People across the world are looking to Pennsylvania.”

Ruff said, for example, that officials in Poland hope that shale development will help that nation end its dependence on Russian for energy sources.

Pennsylvania is strategically located not only in the Marcellus shale formation but located in the high-energy needs market of the northeast.

In 2010 to 2012, Marcellus shale drew $31.5 billion of private investment. That figure will be at $13.5 billion in 2013.

In 2012, the state passed Act 13. Under that act, 60 percent of the impact fee goes to county and local governments. Every well is assessed a fee, which is based on a 15-year sliding scale. In 2011 and 2012, Washington County received $9.1 million for county and local governments.

Ruff said southwestern Pennsylvania's river, rail and highway infrastructure makes it a perfect location for development of this industry.

“What are you doing to your communities to take advantage of this type of opportunity?” Ruff said. This is creating private wealth and investment in our communities.

“This is a generational opportunity for us.”

Oliver said shale is also driving other industries, such as fertilizer and plastics.

“This is going to drive a renaissance on other companies coming to Pennsylvania,” Oliver said.

Ruff said chambers have been proactive partners with the industry.

“This is something special,” Ruff said. “How are you in the Mon Valley going to use it?”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or