The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), which represents hundreds of exploration and production companies, midstream operators and supply chain businesses in Pennsylvania, is planning to stage the largest rally in its six-year history at the state capital next week to tout the benefits of shale gas development.
MSC spokesman Travis Windle said more than 2,000 participants have signed up to participate in the all-day event on Tuesday. Set to begin at the Metro Bank Park, just across the Susquehanna River from the capital building, participants will stage a pre-rally before marching over a bridge into downtown Harrisburg, PA, and onto the steps of the statehouse.
"This event will give a platform to the literally tens, of tens of thousands across the Commonwealth who are benefiting from shale development -- whether directly or indirectly -- be it jobs at well sites or across the supply chain, to those in local government realizing enormous revenues and impact fees, to consumers saving more on electric and natural gas bills, and landowners leasing their mineral rights," Windle said.
Rally participants will be bused in from 14 counties across the state. Windle added that organized labor also will have a heavy presence in the event, as members have seen more jobs, particularly stemming from the infrastructure work taking place across the state.
The rally comes at a time when the state's oil and gas industry is facing headwinds. In December, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down parts of the state's omnibus oil and gas legislation known as Act 13 and undermined centralized regulation (see Shale Daily, Dec. 20, 2013). Meanwhile, some state lawmakers and Democratic candidates for governor are again calling for passage of an oil and gas severance tax to replace the state's impact fees (see Shale Daily, Jan. 28).
Among other issues, the industry has also received negative attention in the state following a fatal fire that broke out at a Chevron Appalachia LLC well site in February (see Shale Daily, Feb. 11), while stepped up efforts from residents in southeast Pennsylvania fighting to stop Sunoco Logistics Partners LP from gaining easements for its Mariner East pipeline project have been generating more public questions about the impact of such projects (see Shale Daily, April 28).
Windle, however, said the rally has nothing to do with any of those issues or anything related to policy matters.
"It's not a political rally of any sort, but a celebration if you will of the broad shared success that our industry has realized for virtually every Pennsylvanian," he said. "It's not just those drilling wells and leasing mineral rights, but the rural communities, businesses and organized labor that have seen real economic and environmental benefits."
Lancaster, PA-based Franklin and Marshall College released a poll in January of 580 registered voters that found natural gas development in Pennsylvania is supported by a more than a two-to-one margin.
At least one counter-rally, though, has reportedly been planned to coincide with the MSC event. The Keystone Trails Association is expected to gather supporters in downtown Harrisburg on the same day.