Small Town versus Big City/National Media

What does Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Buffalo have in common with South Union Township, Fayette County, PA? Not much, from where we’re sitting, but that’s where we begin.

Over the past few months, both big cities in Pennsylvania passed measures to restrict the responsible development of the Marcellus Shale. Pittsburgh passed a resolution to ban development, Philadelphia passed a measure restricting the city-owned utility from the purchasing Marcellus gas. Surely you’ve seen stories about these non-binding measures in some of nation’s largest news outlets and wire services. Here are a few in case you’ve missed it. And just yesterday, the city of Buffalo, New York adopted a similar resolution. Reuters was first to report last night around 5:30, shortly after the resolution was adopted.

What went unnoticed last week, though, is something we believe may be a first in Pennsylvania: the small enclave of South Union Township, Fayette County – Southeast of Pittsburgh, PA, just north of the Maryland border – passed a resolution in support of “responsible Marcellus development.”

Why is this significant? Well, for starters, Fayette County has a few natural gas wells within its confines, 3,944 to be exact – 86 of which are horizontals into the Marcellus formation. South Fayette Twp., while only home to a handful of conventional wells (eight as of July of 2010), recognizes the tremendous economic benefit its residents will soon realize when Marcellus exploration makes it to their community.

And while industry has no intentions of drilling in Pittsburgh anytime soon, or Buffalo for that matter, and Philadelphia is miles from formation itself, we wanted to give the folks in South Union Twp. some additional attention, since the national media seems to have missed this story.

Here’s how the Herald-Standard reported on the unanimous vote:

At Wednesday’s meeting, supervisors Rick Vernon, Thomas Frankhouser and Robert Schiffbauer voted 3-0 to adopt the resolution, noting that responsible development will stimulate economic activity in the local economy.

“To try to take steps to stop it without any good reason is certainly detrimental,” he said.

“The township of South Union and Fayette County are benefiting from the responsible development of natural gas from the Marcellus shale geological formation,” the resolution states, further noting that the industry’s growth will result in a needed increase in tax revenue during uncertain economic times.

Schiffbauer, who made the motion to adopt the resolution, said all efforts to promote the growth of the natural gas industry should be made and that development should not be hindered.

“I think we should be taking every step we can to develop our own natural energy resource,” he said.

Schiffbauer said it’s wrong to try and deter progress by hindering the industry’s growth when no strong evidence has been presented to show that the responsible drilling and removal of natural gas is harmful.

Amidst all the talk about the heavy-on-symbolism, light-on-substance resolutions coming out of areas where producers have no interest in producing, it’s worth noting this small town of 12,000, which is actually home to actual development, recognizes full well that this process can be done in a safe, environmentally responsible manner while benefiting its residents through job creation, added revenue and energy security for Pennsylvania and the nation.

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