PLAINS TWP. — The Marcellus Shale Coalition, longtime promoter for industrial natural gas development, now aspires to advocate on behalf of everyone else who benefits from it.
On Wednesday, the coalition rolled out its latest initiative, the United Shale Advocates, as a way for those not directly involved with gas drilling to speak up to state and federal lawmakers and promote drilling’s growth.
“You don’t need to have a land lease for your company to benefit,” local coalition spokesman John Augustine said at the massive unveiling affair in Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Hotel. “You don’t need to have drilling in your backyard.”
Between 650 and 700 people — drilling and business leaders, labor advocates and chamber officials — those who have seen their bottom line grow due to shale gas production filled a boisterous conference hall in the casino’s newly built convention center.
The new program is to use tools such as letters to the editor and rallies in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., to keep lawmakers informed about how its members want policy to play out, coalition President David Spigelmyer said.
One such rally is planned for May 6 on the state Capitol steps to promote state jobs and energy production. More information is on the program’s website, www.unitedshaleadvocates.com.
“It’s an opportunity for us to engage folks from broad segments of the community,” Spigelmyer said. “Folks that are looking for an outlet to have their voice heard.”
The Marcellus Shale Coalition is a Pittsburgh-based trade and advocacy group with around 230 member companies.
One coalition spokesman, Patrick Creighton, said the advocates’ “movement was born out of folks that come to us when we’re out in the community,” people they meet who are not directly affiliated with drilling, but who want to to see it grow.
Spigelmyer called the program a “grassroots outreach program” that will allow the advocates to compete with the anti-drilling factions on their own turf.
“I mean, our opponents have a loud voice. We need to exceed their passion,” Spigelmyer said. “After a record cold winter like this, it’s further evidence of how important this industry is for … the Commonwealth. In 2008, natural gas prices delivered to your home were in excess of $20 (per thousand cubic feet). This year it’s half that … because we’re producing record amounts of natural gas here in the Northeast.”
The new program will not employ a lobbyist, though the coalition does have lobbyists on staff, Spigelmyer said. He said they aspire to educate lawmakers using grassroots methods.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, welcomed the crowd and drummed up applause for the coalition, commending its efforts in bringing the crowd together.
“You deserve a rounding, standing ovation for putting 700 people here in Northeastern Pennsylvania to talk about the most important issue that’s happening in Pennsylvania; that’s the energy revolution,” Yudichak said.
Yudichak said that while the discussion in Harrisburg ensues over regulations, with recent decisions potentially hampering growth, he said the industry has undeniably helped many sectors of the state’s economy and deserves to be commended.
“There can be no debate in how important the investments that the companies that are represented in this room, how important those investments are in the Pennsylvania economy,” Yudichak said. “Pennsylvania energy equals Pennsylvania jobs.”