HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A rally promoting Pennsylvania's booming natural gas drilling industry on Tuesday filled the front steps of the state Capitol, where the industry has an ally in the governor's office, lobbying muscle to flex with lawmakers and campaign cash to flash.
The show of support also brought out a handful of protesters and an airplane overhead with the banner, "shale gas=dirty energy."
Industry promoters, the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the rally was intended to send the message that the industry is creating employment, providing a cleaner energy option and strengthening national security.
"There was no specific issue that brought us to Harrisburg, just a desire to show a united front," said Marcellus Shale Coalition chairman Scott Roy, a Range Resources vice president who previously was a top aide to former Gov. Ed Rendell.
Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, was master of ceremonies. Black-clad security men, hired by the coalition, were on hand.
But as sign-waving supporters marched up State Street from nearby City Island in the Susquehanna River, protester Gene Stilp stepped in front and led them to the Capitol and up its steps. All the while, he held a big yellow sign that read, "Tax the frackers behind me," a reference to the hydraulic fracturing method widely used in the Marcellus Shale.
Gas utilities, exploration companies and labor unions delivered hundreds of people to the rally. A UGI Corp. spokesman said the majority of the gas it pipes to its 600,000 customers is from the Marcellus Shale, while union leaders say their halls are emptying out with gas field jobs.
The Marcellus Shale drilling boom has made Pennsylvania the second-largest producer of natural gas in the nation after Texas. Depending on wholesale prices, Pennsylvania's 2014 production could be worth $15 billion or more this year.
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