Energy symposium touches on Act 13

Posted August 31, 2012

By Michael Bradwell

Click the linked names below for their presentation from the symposium.

The secretary of the state Department of Environmental Resources said Thursday he’s confident the state Supreme Court will rule in favor of the municipal zoning provisions originally set forth in Act 13.

The legislation, which covers development of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale strata, put limits on the powers of municipalities to regulate the booming natural gas exploration industry.

Earlier this year, Commonwealth Court ruled the act’s provisions for limiting local zoning regulations were unconstitutional.

The ruling followed a suit filed by several municipalities, including Robinson, Mt. Pleasant, Cecil and Peters townships in Washington County, as well as South Fayette Township in Allegheny County and two other municipalities in Eastern Pennsylvania questioning the constitutionality of limiting local zoning ordinances.

“I’m confident that the Supreme Court is going to make the right call,” Mike Krancer said Thursday during an energy symposium being conducted at Southpointe.

Krancer, who was named as a defendant in the municipalities’ suit, and several other speakers at the symposium said the act’s provisions were written to provide uniformity in zoning ordinances to enable natural gas drilling across the Marcellus Shale fairway.

“It wasn’t a mistake that Act 13 was put together in the way it was,” Krancer said.

A decision from the Supreme Court is expected by the end of this year.

On Thursday, the energy symposium, entitled “The Energy Industry-the Future” held at Range Resources regional headquarters, featured speakers from the oil and gas industry discussing various aspects of the rapidly developing natural gas industry in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country. The symposium was sponsored by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Washington County Energy Partners.

Robert Boulware, manager of stakeholder relations for Seneca Resources in Pittsburgh, noted that the “shale gale” that has created a glut of natural gas from the Marcellus and other shale formations around the U.S. has already turned Pennsylvania from an importer of natural gas to a net exporter in just a few years.

Boulware and Scott Roy, Range’s vice president for government affairs, said the abundance of the domestically produced gas is creating a manufacturing renaissance here and in other parts of the country.

Roy said the abundance of affordable natural gas means that the country “is well-positioned to be a leader in manufacturing going forward.”

He noted that 40 years ago, America had some of the highest industrial energy prices in the developed world, but now has some of the lowest prices anywhere.

Boulware said as a result of the low fuel prices U.S. Steel has invested millions in its Lorrain, Ohio, mill because of the need for its products by the gas industry; a Cleveland specialty chemical company has noted a 5 percent decrease in its prices and Nucor changed its plans to build a steel mill overseas, opting to build it in the U.S.

Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, added that as of this year, for the first time, natural gas has caught up with coal as the primary fuel for electricity generation, with each now providing 50 percent to the generation market in the U.S.

In addition, companies and state governments are now seeing the economic benefits of converting their vehicle fleets to natural gas, Klaber said.

Mike Rind, director for Marcellus Shale operations for Waste Management Inc., said his company, which has 22,000 refuse hauling vehicles on the road in the U.S. the largest heavy-duty truck fleet in the U.S. is actively pursuing its program to have an all-natural gas fleet by 2020.

Panelist Stephanie Wissman, executive director of the Association of Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, said the shale industry supports about 600,000 jobs across the country.

“This industry is keeping America working,” she said.

While Roy agreed that jobs are an important part of the industry’s story, he also urged the audience of about 100 people to seriously consider the need for a U.S. energy policy.

“It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue, it’s an American issue,” Roy said. “We need to encourage and demand an energy policy.”

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