Marcellus Shale: The Trillion Dollar Question

We’re sitting on what may be the second-largest natural-gas field in the world—but is it possible to improve our air and water while making the most of the enormous economic opportunity?

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Kathryn Z. Klaber
President and executive director, Marcellus Shale Coalition

Responsible shale-gas development is producing thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania, generating millions in tax revenue and billions in local development while improving air quality and reducing the environmental footprint of the industry.

State tax revenues from this industry for the first quarter of 2011 totaled $238 million—up $20 million from last year. The Department of Labor and Industry estimates that Marcellus activity generated an average of 3,000 jobs per month during the first three months of this year, and more than 141,000 Pennsylvanians work in Marcellus Shale industries.

By any metric, these economic figures are staggering. But with this historic opportunity comes the obligation to leave our environment healthier and stronger for future generations. Our industry’s professionals share with their neighbors the goals of environmental stewardship.

Highly advanced equipment and controls allow for tight monitoring of drilling activity. Dozens of state and federal regulations oversee all stages of the process. Natural gas offers consumers and power-generation companies a clean, cost-effective and reliable source of power while improving the air we breathe and reducing the footprint from energy generation.

As in any industrial process, there are risks. However, managing those risks—through sharing best practices and strengthening workforce training—is key to environmentally responsible shale-gas development.

Working alongside state environmental officials, our industry has helped modernize regulations to protect our environment and water supply. Specific to water, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has implemented new well-casing and construction guidelines to further protect ground water supplies. And more recently, DEP took action to prohibit the discharge of treated water into our rivers. Our industry supported and worked hard to meet this challenge.

Developing the Marcellus Shale in an environmentally responsible manner is not a voluntary directive; it’s a mandate that our industry has imposed upon itself. As a lifelong Pennsylvanian raising two children in the area, I am one of so many who see this homegrown resource offering opportunities for generations to come.
 

David L. Porges
Chairman, president and chief executive officer, EQT Corporation

Natural gas is vital to the U.S. economy. Because of newfound resources, the price of natural gas has come down dramatically over the past few years, leveling off during the same time as crude-oil prices have been increasing.

EQT is one of the largest exploration and production companies working in the Marcellus Shale, the largest shale resource in the United States. We have worked hard to refine and improve our production techniques so that our region and our country can benefit from these natural-gas resources, which are cleaner, cheaper and much more abundant locally than imported oil, while protecting our environment. During our 120 years of operation in southwest Pennsylvania, we have learned an important lesson: Preserving the environment is good business.

EQT sets high standards when it comes to protection of the environment and safety. The company has developed a comprehensive production plan entitled “Marcellus Operations Guiding Principles,” which defines numerous areas critical to the safe production of natural gas and provides a foundation for training and operations within the company’s drilling, completions and production activities.

EQT is committed to protecting water supplies. For instance, we conduct pre-drill testing on all domestic water sources and have increased our recycling of water used for hydraulic fracturing. We guard freshwater supplies using a process called “triple casing”: multiple layers of steel casing and concrete between drilling equipment and the water aquifers.

EQT has also developed industry-leading spill-prevention plans, and we were one of the first natural-gas production companies to publish monthly reports detailing our fracturing fluid additives on our website, EQT.com, and on FracFocus.org, a national registry maintained by the Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC), a leading environmental group.

EQT has also been active in promoting natural gas as a clean, alternative-fuel source, which will lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil. This summer EQT will open a compressed-natural-gas (CNG) fueling station in the Strip District. The station will provide cleaner and less expensive fuel for privately owned and commercial natural-gas vehicles (NGVs). EQT’s distribution company, Equitable Gas Company, is converting a significant portion of its own fleet to natural gas vehicles.

These new resources represent a great opportunity for economic development and a better environment, but only if they are developed responsibly. Part of doing so is recognizing that natural-gas companies are the new neighbor in southwest Pennsylvania, and EQT is committed to conducting itself as a responsible neighbor.

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