Raucous Crowd Meets on Shale Debate
Forces for and against drilling clash at session run by U.S. advisory board in Washington, Pa.
By Erich Schwartzel
Beaver County Blue via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
June 14, 2011 – Competing crowds tried to out-shout each other for more than four hours Monday night as Department of Energy representatives came to Washington & Jefferson College for help in forming a national plan for gas drilling, but instead sat quiet as a vicious neighbor-versus-neighbor ordeal played out in the auditorium before them.
The itinerary was simple, with speakers getting two minutes each to address the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board members charged with forming a policy on gas drilling regulations and the hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," extraction process that allows access to most of the gas. It quickly became a referendum on the industry that has infused money and controversy into the towns that lie on the Marcellus Shale gas formation.
It was an auditorium divided: In the span of 10 minutes, the panel members were called drug cartels by one speaker and patriotic heroes by another.
A soldier’s mother choked up when she talked of her son working toward energy independence in Iraq, while another called shale gas "the new asbestos." A West Virginia woman showed the respirator she makes her children wear because of bad air, while another speaker praised an industry that’s supported college scholarships. Recent college graduates extolled a business that gave them jobs in the middle of a recession, while one protestor behind the microphone mockingly waved a wad of cash above his head.