March 29, 2010


By Julia Ferrante 

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Deep below the surface in areas from the northern tier to western Pennsylvania, a geological formation more than 380 million years old is garnering the attention of people from the oil industry, government agencies, universities and local communities.

The Marcellus Shale, which contains perhaps the largest concentration of natural gas in the continental United States, stands to bring in millions in state revenue and create thousands of jobs. But questions about the impact of natural gas drilling and the legacy of coal mining in Pennsylvania have raised concerns about potential costs to the environment and long-term effects on the economy when the supply is depleted.

Leading experts will discuss the boom of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale and possible environmental, social, political and economic impacts at a symposium April 16-17 at Bucknell University. Sponsored by the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy, the symposium, "The Marcellus Shale: Development, Environment, and Community," will feature a screening of the documentary film, "Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for Energy," keynote speeches and several panel discussions. All events are free and open to the public. || See full schedule

"The Bucknell Institute for Public Policy is interested in providing a forum for discussion of timely issues related to public policy," said Abe Feuerstein, associate dean of faculty in the University's College of Arts and Sciences. "This symposium is an opportunity to explore this issue and understand it not just from an environmental and scientific point of view but also from a social, political and economic perspective."

Spanning many states
Named for the New York town where it was first described, the Marcellus Shale extends across several states including Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. In Pennsylvania, it spans from the northern tier of the state and sweeps down in an arc toward Pittsburgh, said Carl Kirby, a professor of geology at Bucknell who will participate in one of the panel discussions.

Shale is a dark-colored, fine-grained sedimentary rock that breaks into flat pieces, Kirby said. The dark color denotes the remains of 380 million-year-old marine organisms that are the source of the natural gas. In some places, the shale is more than a mile deep, making it both a source and a reservoir for natural gas.

"This is one of the biggest environmental or economic questions of our time in Pennsylvania and our region," Kirby said. "It also has been a challenge to obtain reliable information about it. The symposium is an opportunity to discuss the issue with people from the industry, regulatory agencies and academics."

Documentary kicks off events
The symposium will begin with the showing of the documentary "Haynesville," at 3 p.m. Friday, April 16, at the Campus Theatre on Market Street in Lewisburg. The film focuses on the Haynesville Shale discovery in Louisiana, which has some parallels with the discovery of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Filmmaker Gregory Kallenberg will introduce the film and answer questions after the showing.

Also Friday, John Quigley, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, will give the keynote address in the Trout Auditorium of the Vaughan Literature Building on campus. A second keynote address by John Hanger, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will take place on Saturday afternoon.

Panel discussions
The program on Saturday will feature a number of panel discussions. The first, "Setting the Stage: The Marcellus Shale - Geology, Energy, and Development," will feature Bucknell geology senior Molly Pritz, who has researched and presented on the formation; Bucknell alumna Kathryn Z. Klaber, Class of '88  and president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition; and state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalstock Township, who represents District 23, which includes Union County.

A second panel discussion will focus on the environmental impacts of the projects. Speakers will include John Dawes, executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds; Kirby, the professor of geology at Bucknell; and Jim Richenderfer, acting chief of the Water Resources Management Division at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

After Hanger's address in the afternoon, a third panel will focus on economic development and the potential community impact of the project. Speakers will include Charles Abdalla, a professor of agricultural and environmental economics at Pennsylvania State University; Will Delavan, an assistant professor of economics at Lebanon Valley College; Teri Ooms, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development in Wilkes-Barre; and Simona Perry a postdoctoral scholar in GIS and community studies at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. 

For a full schedule of events, see www.bucknell.edu/MarcellusShale.

Contact: Division of Communications

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