The Marcellus Shale cuts a wide swath across the state, including much of rural Pennsylvania.
Interestingly enough, many residents whose homes sit above the natural gas resource have no access to it.
SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
Workers from Franchelli Utility Contractors, of Wilkes-Barre, work on the PG Energy Natural Gas Line on West Fourth Street from Locust to Walnut streets in June 2006. They were renewing gas mains and services.
The price of building pipelines to sparsely populated rural areas is very costly.
State Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, and state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, took part in a discussion this week to consider the issue.
Yaw, who serves as chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, hosted the session in Bradford County attended by officials from the gas industry and government agencies.
"Twenty years ago they said we would run out of natural gas, so they weren't extending gas lines," Yaw said. "Now, we found out the opposite is true."
Yaw and Everett said heating with natural gas is cheap, but until gas lines are extended to more parts of the state, many rural homeowners and businesses will not have that choice.
"For a consumer, it's a no-brainer," Everett said.
Everett noted that in Muncy, for example, a gas line runs down Main Street but to no other parts of the borough.
"How can we increase distribution of natural gas to rural parts of Pennsylvania?" Yaw asked. "There are areas right here in Williamsport without gas."
State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, agreed.
"Obviously, we need to make sure that communities where gas is being removed, that we make them accessible to the gas, so they don't have to depend on other natural resources," Mirabito said. "Unfortunately, I was not able to be at that meeting, but I fully support efforts to make natural gas accessible to places where it's being removed."
Tom Murphy, co-director of the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, said demand for gas distribution lines has grown.
UGI Utilities Inc. Vice President of Marketing Allen Westbrook testified that of some 7,400 of the company's new residential heating customers last year, 80 percent had switched from oil to natural gas.
Those customers saw a $1,500 average annual savings in heating costs.
Unfortunately, placing a main gas line along a highway or tapping into a gathering line can cost between $250,000 and $1 million.
Yaw suggested that gas companies may need incentives to extend the lines.
The issue is one that should be further explored, he said.