Natural gas caucus field hearing set

Bipartisan members of the congressional natural gas caucus will convene at Pennsylvania College of Technology at 8:30 a.m. Friday to hear testimony on the economic impacts of shale gas production. The event is open to the public but there will be no public comment.

“I think it’s important that we be heard and appropriate policy can be set in Washington to assist us in the responsible harvesting of this resource,” said Lycoming County Commissioner Jeff Wheeland, a panelist at the event.

Government and industry stakeholders will discuss the effects of natural gas development on the Marcellus region economy before members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The testimony will help inform federal energy policy.

“This isn’t going to be an environmental discussion, this isn’t going to be how it has affected neighborhoods, farms and rural areas but rather has it produced jobs and has it had a positive effect on the economy?” said Mike Glazer, district representative for U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Howard.

Local officials offering testimony include Tioga County Commissioner Erick Coolidge and state Rep. Matthew E. Baker, R-Wellsboro. Speaking on behalf of private industry are John Augustine, of the Marcellus Shale Coalition; Brent Fish, of Fish Realty; Seth Alberts, of Alberts Spray Solutions; Bobby Keen, of Ultra Pipeline; and Vince Matteo, of Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce.

The mission of the caucus, chaired by U.S. Reps. Thompson; Gene Green, D-Texas; Tom Reed, R-N.Y.; and Jim Costa, D-Calif., is to promote natural gas as a domestic energy resource. Caucus member U.S. Rep. Thomas A. Marino, R-Cogan Station, also will attend.

“I personally will be encouraging for a national energy policy with natural gas at the forefront,” Wheeland said.

Citing its power as an economic driver, Wheeland also emphasized natural gas’ role in national security. Mike Flanagan, a panelist representing the Clinton County Economic Partnership, shared Wheeland’s perspective.

“(The shale boom) came out of the blue five or six years ago, but it’s something that we have to embrace, primarily because we could become energy independent from foreign oil,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan said his testimony will focus on Clinton County’s economic growth.

“We have three natural gas-related firms in Clinton County and all three of them have well over 100 employees and weren’t here three years ago,” Flanagan said.

Perhaps one of the most significant impacts of the shale boom, job creation in the Marcellus region, couldn’t have come at a better time, some say.

“I think it’ll be interesting to see how our regional economy fared during the same period that the rest of the country hit a terrible recession,” Glazer said.

While Pennsylvania has a long history of resource extraction, the “natural gas revolution” is unique, according to Glazer.

“We’re living through a very interesting time here in central PA,” Glazer said.