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Despite Environmental Concerns, Fitzgerald Says Shale Drilling Is Good For The County

Keith Srakocic
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald speaks during a news conference where they announced the July 1, 2016 Billy Joel concert on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016.

As natural gas and energy industry leaders gather at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this week for the Shale Insight conference, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald remembered years ago when conference organizers didn’t want to come to Pittsburgh because the Steel City was perceived to be a haven for the anti-fracking movement.

“This is a conference, I’ve gone to and spoken at every year,” he said. “In fact, I’ve gone to Philadelphia to speak at this conference because there were a number of years in which this conference didn’t want to come to Pittsburgh because they thought we were anti-energy, anti-fracking, anti-shale.”

Fitzgerald, a staunch proponent of shale drilling, said the decision to allow fracking to begin at the Pittsburgh International Airport in April of 2015 helped to stabilize the airport’s finances. He said other benefits since the deal with Consol Energy was signed include lowering costs for passengers.

Fitzgerald said the gas has only recently started to flow. And that, while there was an upfront bonus payment of $50 million from Consol, the big money, ongoing revenues estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars, will be coming over the next couple of decades.    

As for the notion that the closing shale conference keynote speaker, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has established himself as the nation’s foremost pro-fracking candidate, Fitzgerald said he’s not so sure about that. He said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whom he has endorsed for president, has a more intelligent approach that better balances both economic and environmental concerns.