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Vol. 16, No. 1 Week of January 02, 2011
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

ShaleCountry.com touts people, benefits of U.S. shale gas boom

The prospect of huge new volumes of domestic natural gas produced from shale formations has created quite a stir in the oil and gas world.

The news has been exciting for clean energy proponents, demoralizing for Alaskans hoping to market their huge storehouse of stranded conventional gas, and alarming for environmentalists and landowners who fear hydraulic fracturing to unlock shale gas could pollute local water sources.

Now a multimedia effort is under way to tout the wonders of shale gas — and to try to defuse some of the controversy.

It’s called the Shale Country project, with an appealing website at ShaleCountry.com.

The site features “real life stories from communities at the center of America’s shale gas revolution.” These are slideshow testimonials from ordinary people who have benefitted from shale gas development as workers, suppliers or just welcoming neighbors. We hear from folks like Buster Guffy, an Arkansas truck dispatcher who says the shale gas boom allowed him to buy his daughter a $300 prom dress instead of a $50 hand-me-down, and Pentecostal preacher Michael Hudspeth of Shreveport, La., whose church was able to pay off its mortgage early with royalties from wells drilled on church property.

Day-to-day experiences

Ads in major newspapers such as USA Today are promoting ShaleCountry.com, the sponsor of which is the nonprofit American Clean Skies Foundation of Washington, D.C.

“Given all the energy buzz about shale gas, as well as the environmental concerns, we wanted to find an engaging way to share the actual day-to-day experiences of people living in the areas where the gas is being produced — the Haynesville shale in Louisiana, the Fayetteville in Arkansas, and the Marcellus in New York and Pennsylvania,” Greg Staple, the foundation’s chief executive, says on ShaleCountry.com.

Staple continues: “These geologic formations — formed by ancient seas — were once obscure. Now, the names of these methane-rich rock strata have entered the mainstream. And for good reason: The Haynesville, the Fayetteville, the Marcellus and America’s other shale gas ‘plays,’ together with existing resources, provide us with the potential to derive more energy from natural gas than all the oil in Saudi Arabia.”

Controversy also addressed

While the testimonials seem largely positive about shale gas, the website doesn’t ignore the considerable controversy.

“State regulatory agencies currently oversee the permitting of shale gas drilling sites as well as the fracking process,” Staple writes. “Over 25,000 shale gas wells have been fracked during the last decade and the vast majority of these wells have not led to any reported environmental incidents.

“There have been some deplorable exceptions, however, such as where an improperly cased and cemented drill bore has leaked methane into nearby ground water, or where frack fluids or produced water has been spilled or disposed of improperly. The environmental harm from these illegal activities should not be minimized even though it generally has been limited to the immediate vicinity, and the companies responsible have been disciplined by state regulators.”

So what is ShaleCountry.com’s sponsor, the American Clean Skies Foundation, all about?

The foundation says it was “founded in 2007 to advance America’s energy independence and a cleaner, low-carbon environment through expanded use of natural gas, renewables and efficiency.”

The foundation’s board chairman is Aubrey K. McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp. The Oklahoma City company is a major gas producer and owns leading positions in the Barnett, Fayetteville, Haynesville, Marcellus and Bossier shale plays, its website says.

—Wesley Loy



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