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Gas drilling companies work on community relations

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 28, 2012 at 11:32 am •  Published: December 28, 2012
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Some gas drilling companies that spent years fighting, threatening and suing reluctant communities took a new tack in 2012: collaboration.

Some drillers in Pennsylvania have hired local residents to act as liaisons and ramped up communication efforts, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (http://bit.ly/VGYgG2) reported Friday. Most municipal officials the newspaper interviewed now give drillers credit for improving communication and responding quickly when problems arise.

For example, XTO Energy — an Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary — set up a community advisory board in Butler County, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh.

"XTO (Energy) has been great to work with," said Lois Rankin, a supervisor in Jefferson. "Each and every time there's been an issue ... they've come through and complied and fixed it."

That kind of effort was largely missing in the early years of shale gas development in Pennsylvania, said Gregory Kallenberg, a filmmaker who toured the state this year for a program Shell Oil Co. sponsored.

"They were coming into the area ... without the attention they should give to communication and community relations that they seem to have now," Kallenberg said by phone from his office in Louisiana.

A boom in drilling has taken place in parts of the Marcellus Shale, which lies under Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The procedure called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has made it possible to tap into deep reserves of oil and gas. But fracking has raised concerns about pollution, since large volumes of water, along with sand and hazardous chemicals, are injected underground to break rock apart and free the oil and gas.

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