Prior to his presentation Friday at the Community Arts Center, billionaire financier and oil and gas tycoon T. Boone Pickens took to the stage to participate in a roundtable discussion before an invitation-only crowd.
Pickens said the nation's economy has been hamstrung by 40 years without an energy policy. As a result, Americans are at the mercy of foreign countries that do not like us.
"The challenge we have is that we are using the enemy's resources," Pickens said.
Panelists listen to T. Boone Pickens, billionaire advocate for natural gas development, during Friday’s event at the Community Arts Center. Vince Matteo, president and CEO of the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, moderated the panel discussion, and Pickens spoke and answered question later Friday evening.
Moderated by Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Vince Matteo, the panel included Gov. Tom Corbett, state Sen. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer and several members of the natural gas industry, including Douglas Miller, president of EXCO Resources Inc., Rob Browen, president of Talisman Energy USA, and Alan McKim, president of Clean Harbor.
Pickens praised Corbett and his role in promoting shale gas development. Pennsylvania's experience with the Marcellus Shale should be a model for how natural gas development should be done throughout the U.S.
"They see what you are doing and realize we can do this all over the United States," he said.
Pickens said New York may soon lift a moratorium on gas development and that can be a good thing, but only if the overall development of natural gas "fits into a plan that changes the economy of America."
He said it is sad to see young people educated in their home states, then leave because those states lack employment opportunities.
Because of natural gas, that can change, he said.
"Your young people are going to stay here because the opportunities are here," he said.
Pickens said Pennsylvania already has a heritage with the oil industry - the nation's first oil well was drilled in Titusville in 1859. The Marcellus Shale boom will be quite unlike that early oil boom, he said.
"This is not the same kind of boom like in Titusville in 1859," he said. "This is going to go on for a long time. It's not going to be boom and out of here."
Corbett said developing the Marcellus Shale has the potential to make Pennsylvania "energy independent," but added that policies and regulations need to be put in place to make sure that happens.
Next week Corbett said he plans to begin working next week on legislative and non-legislative measures that will help ensure responsible development of the resource.
That, in turn, will help fuel economic development in the state, he said.
"Energy equals jobs," Corbett said, adding that it is no coincidence that Williamsport has seen unprecedented growth in recent years. He attributed that growth to the Marcellus Shale.
Corbett said he is confident the shale can be developed responsibly.
"If we can put a man on the moon in 1969, we can do this right," he said.
Krancer discussed DEP initiatives he said will ensure safe development of the natural gas, including increasing drilling operation setbacks from water supplies, chemical disclosures by the gas industry and increased enforcement.
Krancer said a report submitted by the governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission includes almost 100 recommendations to be considered by the Corbett administration.
Browen called the Marcellus Shale a "huge treasure" and predicted in four years it will produce 3.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day.
Miller said his company plans to invest $1 billion a year for the next five years in the shale play, but said the challenge will be to develop the resource slow enough that it can be done with minimal impacts.
"This is perhaps the largest gas field in the world," Miller said. "If we do it right and do it together, there is a lot of money to be made and a lot of jobs (created)."
One of the challenges facing the industry in the Marcellus Shale is the number of companies involved in drilling here, Miller said. While the larger companies may work responsibly, "the little guys are taking shortcuts," he said.
"We can't put them over our knees. You'll have to put them over your knees," he said to the state officials on the stage. Miller also predicted that in the coming years, the number of companies working in the Marcellus Shale will be reduced due to larger company taking over small operators.
"(In the future) there will be 10 operators," he said. "Right now, there are hundreds."
Corbett offered closing remarks, telling the audience that education is the key to making Pennsylvania citizens feel comfortable with shale gas development.