Though Penn State professors will not be featured this year in an industry-funded study of the economic impact of natural gas drilling in Marcellus Shale — for which they have received heavy criticism in the past — the university will still be organizing and hosting its fifth annual Marcellus Summit.
The 2012 Marcellus Summit, an event sponsored by the Penn State Extension and attended by a spread of lawmakers, industry representatives and geological researchers, will run from Oct. 10 to 12 at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.
Following its credo of “Real Issues, Balanced Perspectives,” the summit will feature a variety of discussion panels, keynote addresses, industry exhibits and research presentations that will take a balanced approach at tackling timely issues concerning shale gas development in the Appalachian Basin, according to the event’s webpage.
The summit will serve as an opportunity to network, share information and ideas, as well as act as an open forum for discussion, Event Chairman Dave Messersmith, of Penn State Extension, said.
“We have a consistent group of attendees and the event will be a good opportunity for them to network and reconnect with each other, as well as learn from the new information that will be presented this year,” he said.
Messersmith said there will be a variety of “stakeholders” at the summit, including state and local elected officials, attorneys, employees of government agencies, industry representatives and researchers, Messersmith said
He also noted the presence of Penn State students at the Summit, as he said there were strong contributions from Penn State graduate students.
Contributions to the summit not only arise from the local Pennsylvania area, but from states such as New York, West Virginia and Ohio, according to the website.
Michael Arthur, a Penn State Professor of Geosciences and co-director of the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, emphasized the accessibility of the event.
“It’s designed so that anyone interested can attend, from investors to environmentalists, average people and even students,” he said.
A great deal of research concerning hydraulic fracturing also occurs at Penn State, Arthur said. Research topics cover many different aspects of the industry, and range from examining water quality to public opinion, he said.
Arthur also underlined the controversial nature of hydraulic fracturing and the importance of events such as the Marcellus Summit.
Arthur said that there are many potential problems to be examined with production of hydrocarbons through hydraulic fracturing, yet they seem to be of less importance when looking at the economic impact and safety.
Walt Whitmer, a senior extension associate at Penn State focusing on economic and community development, said he is participating in a hydraulic fracturing panel Thursday with colleagues from Cornell University and the University of Pittsburgh.
Whitmer also commented on the importance of places of higher education, such as Penn State.
“Often organizations or other interested entities bring a particular perspective or priorities that are not necessarily to be trusted,” Whitmer said. “The university and scientific community is important in this regard because it, by definition, seeks to get to evidence-based empirical information that we can all use in the context of discussion.”
Whitmer also encouraged greater student participation in the event.
“This is a complex issue that has a great impact on Pennsylvania and will continue to be for decades to come,” Whitmer said. “I can’t imagine how well we will do in this environment if students aren’t actively engaged and involved.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.