INTRODUCTION: Recently, Spilman’s Director of Energy & Transportation Services, Scott Rotruck, interviewed David Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC). Prior to his appointment to the MSC, Spigelmyer has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the oil & natural gas industry, including tenures with fully integrated utilities, purely exploration and production companies, midstream-focused companies, and has chaired industry trade associations including The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA). Spigelmyer is a Pennsylvania native, an Eagle Scout, a proud grad of Penn State, an active sportsman and devoted family man.
Rotruck: In October 2013, you were named the president of the MSC. With your extensive and diverse industry background, having seen so many challenges, as well as so many opportunities, what will be your top priorities?
Spigelmyer: The MSC is approximately 300 members strong, including producers, midstream companies and suppliers, who are guided in our work together by two key facts: (1) being the widespread economic and community development benefits of safe shale development across the footprint of shale and beyond and (2) being the historically validated fact that Pennsylvania, as is the case with other jurisdictions vying for investment, must remain attractive to capital long-term, have a skilled and educated workforce, and a strong regulatory regime conferring certainty of the rules of economic engagement.
Rotruck: It seems the general public has developed an awareness of shale development sufficient to be included in late-night comedy mentions about hydraulic fracturing, yet there is a yawning chasm between awareness and a true understanding – although polls do show good public support. Correct?
Spigelmyer: While public opinion polls routinely show a majority support shale development, advocacy groups opposing the work of our industry have a platform through traditional media and social media, which amplifies their voice many times their actual strength and number. This one-sided narrative, with an exaggerated projection of the number of adherents and the conviction of their message, must change and change quickly, if shale development, with its myriad benefits for so many Pennsylvanians, is to continue.
Rotruck: What are a few of those widely dispersed benefits folks need to keep top of mind, so they can appreciate and actively support safe shale development?
Spigelmyer: The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, for the second quarter of 2013, said there were 241,926 employees in the Marcellus and related industries. Furthermore, the Department noted that since 2009, core industries, which includes drilling and supporting activities, oil and gas pipeline and related structures, natural gas liquefied extraction, and other categories, have grown by 174 percent. Pennsylvanians should be encouraged to read the MSC’s 2014 edition of “Shale Fast Facts”, which shows the average core industry wage as $84,400, which is $35,600 higher than the average wage in Pennsylvania.
Rotruck: Those are amazing numbers, but is it possible yet to fully see in the labor and industry statistics the widely distributed benefits of the Marcellus?
Spigelmyer: You bet it is! Again, the Department has impressive numbers, which show that even while weathering a national recession and a sluggish economy generally, the “Ancillary Industries”, which includes among other entities, technical consultancies, such as engineering and environmental compliance, as well as site prep, transportation, and water and wastewater management, succeed. Again, turning to “Shale Fast Facts”, the Ancillary Industries wage category was $65,200, and, as I remember, that is about $16,400 higher than the average Pennsylvania wage.
Rotruck: Dave, I have known you a long time and although you are a team player and flexible, you always advised associations to have a to-do list of prioritized items. Therefore, what is on the MSC’s prioritized list?
Spigelmyer: The recent establishment of the United Shale Advocates (USA), a grassroots driven movement to optimize and maximize broad community support for shale development, is a top priority now. However, the USA is not replacing some other MSC activities, but it will be complementary and essential to accomplishing other MSC priorities.
The MSC created USA as an online neighborhood for committed advocates of shale gas and those who want to learn more about the industry. And like a neighborhood or a larger community, where people share ideas, information and stories about what is important in their daily lives, the USA online community will work best when everyone is talking with one another consistently and frequently.
Furthermore, it needs to be underscored, that the USA is not another level of membership status in the MSC, nor a separate organization, but instead it is a way of engaging the broad spectrum of supporters and those who in their enlightened self-interest should be supporters of shale development across society, but especially at the community level in areas where shale development is taking place.
Finally, the USA movement will not be exclusively done online, but will include tangible events, such as the very successful rally just held at the Capitol in Harrisburg, which was widely covered in the press, where experts were quoted saying it was one of the largest rallies ever seen in the city.
Rotruck: Dave, you have shared compelling statistics on the growing safe shale development in Pennsylvania, highlighted MSC priorities of securing wide and deep support from enlightened and engaged communities through the USA movement, while ensuring Pennsylvania is attractive to capital investment. What final thoughts would you like to share?
Spigelmyer: I feel so fortunate to see first-hand, daily, how powerful safe shale development can be for local communities and for meeting our environmental, economic and national security goals. However, to maintain long-term shale development, it is absolutely necessary that we successfully mobilize our supporters and potential supporters and convert them to ACTIVE supporters, who will tell this great story.