The natural gas industry needs to improve its image in Pennsylvania, and sitting down with elected officials and environmental leaders might be the best way to begin that process, according to former Gov. Tom Ridge, now a strategic adviser for the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC).

“A lot of people are very skeptical,” Ridge said during an MSC-hosted roundtable held at the Tiadaghton State Forest Resource Management Center in Lycoming County Friday. “There’s a lot of bad information, misinformation and no information out there, and these kind of engagements are very helpful to get the information out there.”

The general public learns much of what it knows about natural gas drilling, the Marcellus Shale and hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) from industry opponents, and resulting perceptions are not always accurate, according to MSC.

“The greatest environmental concern that I’ve heard over and over again is about water quality,” Ridge told Wilkes-Barre, PA’s WBRE-TV. “But at the end of the day, every bit of water extracted from Pennsylvania’s streams…is overseen, regulated, reviewed and expected.”

Ridge pointed to MSC’s list of principles for natural gas drillers (see Daily GPI, Oct. 4, 2010) as evidence that the industry takes its responsibilities to the state and its residents seriously.

With portions of the public learning about the industry through the Gasland film and other unflattering sources, it is important for proponents of Marcellus Shale drilling to get their message out, according to state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23rd), whose district includes Lycoming County and other top Marcellus producing areas. Convincing the public that what they’ve heard about the industry isn’t accurate can be problematic, he said.

“No matter what you tell some people, they won’t believe you. It’s almost like, ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts.'”

A trade group representing developers of shale gas has blasted the Academy Awards nomination of Gasland for best documentary feature, saying it grossly misrepresented the facts about hydrofracking practice associated with the production of shale (see Shale Daily, Jan. 26).

Ridge, Yaw and others attending the MSC event, including representatives of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., also toured an Anadarko well site in the Sproul State Forest.