Shale Gas Development Described As ‘Worldwide Game-Changer’

Potter County Today

appalachianbasinSpeaker after speaker addressing a packed house during the opening day of the “Development Issues in the Major Shale Plays” conference in Pittsburgh used superlatives to emphasize the far-reaching implications of new natural gas extraction technology in the U.S.  The stakes are so high — internationally, economically and environmentally — that it’s incumbent on industry leaders, public officials and the news media to effectively educate the masses so that sound public policy is developed.

“Worldwide game-changer” and “a historic and revolutionary economic development” were among the descriptions used during Monday’s session, which emphasized the need for a review — and likely revision — of several federal and state laws affecting natural gas drilling and related issues. Many laws in effect today were drafted prior to the development of reliable hydraulic fracturing technology that allows production from gas-rich shale formations, notably the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachian Basin. Water withdrawal, recycling and disposal aspects that are essential to shale gas development were not taken into account when most of the current laws were passed, according to one of Monday’s presenters, attorney R. Timothy Weston, a nationally recognized practitioner in the field of environmental and natural resources management and former DEP official. Speakers from Texas, South Dakota, Colorado, Tennessee, Alaska and West Virginia are also sharing their insights during the two-day conference which concludes on Tuesday.

International energy giants such as ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell have bought into the Marcellus Shale and adjusted their long-range strategic plans to incorporate more shale gas. Foreign countries are also investing in the Marcellus, while smaller and mid-sized operators are being courted by the larger corporations. Economists say shale gas will reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil, as more motor vehicles are manufactured to operate on compressed natural gas. Vast gas reserves are also being eyed for an increasing volume of electricity generation, with a resultant reduction in reliance on coal and nuclear energy.

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