Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Corbett Greets Marcellus Shale Coalition with Warm Welcome

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Corbett Greets Marcellus Shale Coalition with Warm Welcome

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA -- When Pennsylvania's natural gas drillers met in this city last year, they were greeted by a crowd of protesters and a swift rebuke from the state's former governor.

One year and one massive piece of state legislation later, the Marcellus Shale Coalition got a warm welcome from Gov. Tom Corbett and the decibel level -- of both the drillers and the anti-drilling activists drawn to the trade group's second gathering at the Philadelphia Convention Center -- is lower.

Not to say low: Opponents of hydraulic fracturing again convened outside with signs declaring that fracking has polluted air and waterways, though the crowd at the start of their counter-event appeared to be significantly smaller than last year's.

Their presence still prompted tight security measures inside. Mr. Corbett and other speakers acknowledged that drillers continue to face public criticism over the safety of gas extraction, even as regulations are tightened.

"We are advancing, even in the face of unreasoning opposition," Mr. Corbett told the ballroom crowd of industry representatives. "Our opponents agree that we can land a rover on Mars, but they can't bring themselves to think that we can safely drill a mile into our own soil."

But the message from protesters -- described by last year's keynote speaker, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon as "fractivists" -- and the accompanying response from companies and politicians has shifted with the continued development of Marcellus Shale drilling and the approval of a major overhaul to state environmental rules approved in February.

That law, which is being challenged in state court, also enacted a per-well levy on drillers and created statewide zoning for their operations.

Mr. Corbett, an ardent drilling supporter, said Pennsylvania "got that one right" in approving impact fees, which will begin providing money to local governments and statewide environmental programs later this year. …

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