Marcellus Impact Remains Divisive

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
1 April 2011
By Paul Paterra

The Southwest PA Tea Party hosted a seminar on the impact of Marcellus shale drilling on Thursday at the Greensburg Garden & Civic Center that drew about 75 people.

"There's so many pros and cons out there, there's so much rhetoric on each side," said Brian Sayre, a Tea Party committee member and one of the organizers of the event. "People have got to understand, they've got to get out and learn about it. Sometimes what they're being told is not the right thing."

Some in attendance just wanted to learn about Marcellus shale, a formation of sedimentary rock that contains a large stretch of mostly untapped natural gas. Communities such as Murrysville and Penn Township are in the process of developing regulations.

"This is a political issue, so I'm trying to get more information," said Ron Orr, of Greensburg. "I think it's a resource we need to really look into using. ..."

The event's main speaker was geologist Greg Wrightstone, director of geology for Pittsburgh-based Texas Keystone Inc., who serves as president of the eastern section of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Wrightstone spoke of the benefits of Marcellus shale drilling, which he said includes an additional 100,000 high-paying jobs and payments of more than $600 billion to landowners in bonus and royalty payments.

"America's been given a great gift of what's going to be low-cost energy," Wrightsone said. "We can stop importing oil from people that want to kill us."

A question-and-answer session featured a panel that included state legislators -- Tim Krieger (R-Delmont) George Dunbar (R-Penn Township) and Sen. Kim Ward (R-Hempfield).

Michael Bertonaschi said he was shocked by last night's presentation. The Penn Township resident is a regular at township meetings concerning Marcellus shale drilling and has pushed commissioners to adopt stringent guidelines.

"I'm at a loss for words, really," he said after the event. "I think the shame of it is so many people are going to leave here thinking, based on Mr. Wrightstone's presentation, that there are no problems with this industry and this process and it's just not true."

On the other hand, John Slatt of Greensburg said he likes what Marcellus shale drilling can do for a community.

"I think it's good, it's good for this state," he said. "It brings money into the communties. It puts money into people's pockets. (It creates) more jobs. It's good all the way around."

Paul Paterra can be reached at or 724-836-6220.