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Drilling supporter says misinformation spread by opponents

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Debbie Swarts in Ithacajournal.com

BINGHAMTON — Don’t believe the popular notion that out-of-towners are getting a majority of the gas drilling jobs in Pennsylvania, a natural gas drilling representative told a Binghamton business group on Tuesday.

Seven out of 10 hires for the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania are residents, not those coming from other states, said John Augustine of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. In addition, Augustine said, Marcellus Shale drilling has created 239,000 jobs based on Pennsylvania Department’s statistics.

Greater Binghamton business leaders and others spent Tuesday morning hearing about the benefits of natural gas drilling.

Presented by the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, the morning presentation brought several speakers, including those from the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Chesapeake Energy, BK Energy Services and the National Federation of Independent Business.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Augustine said.

The short- and long-term benefits of natural gas drilling include jobs, landowner lease and royalty payments and the increased business among local suppliers and subcontractors.

Dow Chemical, Bayer Corp, Westlake Chemical among other companies are bringing manufacturing facilities back to the United States because of the availability of inexpensive natural gas, Augustine said. Other markets for the commodity include the expansion of vehicles powered by natural gas, he said. Of the 12 million natural gas powered vehicles in the world only 125,000 are in the U.S., Augustine said.

“This is one of the opportunities we have,” he said.

The boom to bust cycle of natural gas drilling portrayed by critics is a falsehood, said Mark Lane of URS Corp.

“This is a huge source of energy,” he said. “It is an energy revolution.”

Support for drilling is widespread in the business community, said representatives of The National Federation of Independent Business. Based on surveys, 73 percent of the organization’s more than 10,000 clients in New York support drilling, said Executive Director Mike Durant. Gas drilling represents a significant way to jump start the economy upstate, he said, and will help various levels of government that have been straining under increased costs.

Nonetheless, gas drilling faces stiff headwinds in New York under a well-organized environmental lobby, Durant said. He urged those that support drilling to get more involved in the debate.

“Push loudly because that’s what the others are doing,” he said. “This is an opportunity to reverse that trend.”

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