Charitable Efforts Recorded by Shale Gas Industry During September Flood

Tropical Storm Lee deposited record-breaking rainwater in North and Central Pennsylvania on September 7, 2011.  Rivers, streams and creeks rose significantly over flood-plain levels ravaging bridges and roadways, engulfing properties and homes and drowning the landscape in approximately 19 Pennsylvania counties. 

The storm has been compared to Hurricane Agnes of 1972, but worse. Many Pennsylvanians, who lived through the havoc caused by Agnes, did not believe that they would witness flooding to that degree ever again.  Thousands of Pennsylvania residents and businesses experienced unspeakable property loss, and the Commonwealth’s resources will be indefinitely taxed to rebuild the bridges and roadways that were damaged or destroyed. 

Although circumstances of Lee’s wrath may seem eerily similar to that of Agnes 39 years ago, something is different this time.  The Shale Gas Industry was not there in 1972.  But, it is thankfully there now.

Representatives from hundreds of developers, producers, service companies and other Industry supporters gathered at the Shale Gas Insight 2011 Conference in Philadelphia, on September 7-8, while the rain from Tropical Storm Lee pounded the Commonwealth.  The conference was coordinated by the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), an organization comprised of members committed to the safe and responsible development of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation and the enhancement of the region’s economy as a result of such development.  Many of the conference attendees frantically tried to reach friends and family who were located in affected areas when media reports of rising flood waters, road closings and evacuations were released.  It was evident the Commonwealth’s residents would sustain severe damage, and the Industry was poised to help.

“We are proud to support the coordinated efforts of state government, including Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation, Environmental Protection, and Community and Economic Development, as well as the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, with timely communication to and from our members,” said Kathryn Klaber, President and Executive Director of the MSC regarding its flood-recovery response. “The MSC is proud to count among its member companies some of the most dedicated, compassionate, and energetic contributors to the well-being of Pennsylvanians, especially during this time of hardship for many residents.”

The Industry’s dedication and compassion are evident, and stories of its contributions abound.  Williamsport Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Vince Matteo, said that the Shale Gas Industry’s “response so far has been outstanding.” 

The Williamsport Chamber of Commerce and First Community Foundation have jointly coordinated relief efforts and are accepting donations for a “Flood Relief Fund” that will provide assistance for local non-profit organizations, governments and small business.  The Chamber has received pledges totaling at least $150,000, largely from natural gas developers, producers and service companies.

 In addition to a $50,000 contribution to the Flood Relief Fund, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation is working with local municipalities, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection “to repair infrastructure damaged by the flooding, in accordance with all inspection, re-building and road bonding regulatory procedures,” said Mary Wolf, Government Relations Advisor for Anadarko.  “The destruction caused by the September rains and floods underscores the responsibility we all feel for the well-being of our community and the environment,” she added.

Chief Oil & Gas earmarked $50,000 for the Flood Relief Fund and donated an additional $150,000 to Bradford, Susquehanna, Sullivan and Wyoming Counties and to the Red Cross of Wyoming Valley for debris removal, cleaning supplies and/or other products and services according to the recipient’s needs.  

Although its operations were not affected by the floods, the same cannot be said for at least one Chief employee in Lycoming County whose home was ravaged. Chief responded by sending fellow colleagues to his property to shovel mud, remove debris and otherwise attempt to salvage his personal belongings. 

Chief’s Montoursville office manager, Kim Hanna, was provided with company funds to purchase blow-up mattresses, cleaning supplies, plastic tubs and gift cards for food and other personal items. She delivered these items to a local area shelter that housed evacuees, including elderly residents of two assisted care facilities. 

While at the shelter, Ms. Hanna met a family with a small baby who became stranded in Montoursville when roads closed as a result of flood waters. Hanna immediately went out and purchased a portable crib to provide a place for the baby to sleep.  Chief reimbursed her; no questions asked.

Hanna also offered her home to evacuees for a night when it became evident that shelter occupancy reached a maximum.  Despite Ms. Hanna’s individual efforts, she cannot say enough positive things about Chief’s generosity and the individual efforts of its employees. 

One Chief employee from its Wexford office drove approximately three hours to the Williamsport area to help its local residents.  Hanna described this employee’s generosity as “incredible,” particularly since “she had no connection to Montoursville other than Chief.”

Lycoming County will also benefit from donations by Alberts Spray Solutions LLC (a service company which provides environmentally friendly polyurea containment liners for primary and secondary containment in the Marcellus Shale region) and Ralph S. Alberts Co., Inc.  Alberts will provide $10,000 to the Flood Relief Fund and $5,000 to Susquehanna Health System.  Alberts also donated a truck to a family whose home was ravaged by floodwater.  Company representatives spent days providing food and supplies to many local families who sustained significant losses and operated heavy equipment to rebuild driveways.  Like thousands of other local residents, President of Alberts Spray Solutions, Seth Alberts, was personally impacted by the floodwaters when the road leading to his home washed away into the Loyalsock Creek.  “It’s a disaster,” he said.  “It’s going to take a long time to clean up and rebuild.”

Clean-up efforts were greatly enhanced in Lycoming County by Cascade Land Clearing (a natural gas service company) and Susquehanna Paper.  Owner of the companies, W.J. Choate, by making deliveries in his own vehicle and later with larger trucks, donated 5,000 rolls of paper towels, 8,000 trash bags, 2,800 rolls of toilet paper, 600 bottles of bleach, 540 boxes of disposable rubber gloves, 200 bottles of sanitizer 100 mops and 1,600 cups to various local shelters.
Range Resources-Appalachia, LLC also provided residents of Lycoming County with much needed additional personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies such as work gloves, safety glasses, respirators, mops, rakes, brooms, shovels, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, toilet paper, shampoo, antibiotic ointment, bandages, facial tissue, paper towels, peroxide, alcohol and bottled water.  Range also donated a fuel tank with 1,000 gallons of fuel.  Several Range employees worked tirelessly with clean-up efforts in areas surrounding Williamsport loading trailers with flood-damaged personal belongings that posed potential health risks.  Range also worked with Appalachian Oil Field Services to secure equipment needed for clean-up assistance and a cooker which it supplied to a local fire department for feeding community members.

Other Pennsylvania counties will benefit from donations by Tug Hill, Inc., Williams and EXCO Resources Pennsylvania (a joint venture between EXCO Resources Inc. and BG Group).  Tug Hill pledged $50,000 for flood relief efforts.  EXCO donated $100,000 and Williams committed $40,000 to non-profit organizations in Wyoming, Luzerne and Susquehanna counties.

Williams also delivered bottled water, cleaning kits and meals to Wyoming County residents.  Maureen Dispenza of the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce said that the Shale Gas Industry “stepped right up” with “no questions asked” in response to her email to companies involved in Marcellus Shale production wherein she requested assistance for the local community.  Dispenza received pledges of over $200,000 from Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, Williams, Southwestern Energy, Carrizo Oil & Gas, Inc., Chief and Citrus Energy.  Some of these companies provided heavy equipment and personnel support for clean-up efforts.  Dispenza also described heroic efforts by local Shale Gas service companies.  For example, Bill Ruark of Susquehanna Gas Field Services, LLC “single-handedly cleaned up a town,” she said as she described restoration efforts in Meshoppen, Pennsylvania.

Chesapeake Energy provided large scale clean-up assistance in Bradford County.  Chesapeake offered the use of 50 dump trucks, loaders and several water trucks for emergency and clean-up efforts.  In addition to its heavy equipment, Chesapeake employees also volunteered significant manpower.  Field operations were suspended while the company teamed with local emergency response personnel to provide aid.  Great Plains Oilfield Rentals also provided meals for volunteers and local Athens residents.

 Although financial contributions and provision of supplies, equipment and manpower were needed and thankfully received, the significance of the Industry’s emergency response efforts cannot be overstated.  For example, the Williamsport field office of Stallion Oilfield Services provided the heavy equipment and personnel necessary to save a family of three when their home was rapidly surrounded by floodwater providing them no avenue to escape.  The family climbed onto a Stallion loader, and company representatives drove them to safety.

Stallion also provided much needed equipment and resources to protect pollution of local water supplies when a pond at the Lycoming County Landfill began to overflow.  Stallion was able to remove the Landfill waste water and safely transport it to a treatment facility before significant damage occurred.

Representatives from Range also provided virtually full-time, first-response assistance in affected regions by working with the Pennsylvania Urban Search & Rescue Task Force and the Lycoming County Emergency Operations Center.  One first-responder from Range facilitated the rescued of more than 60 evacuees from their homes when flood waters rose to dangerous levels.

As this collection of stories demonstrates, Industry representatives have acted like good neighbors.  In the days following Lee’s wrath, producers, developers and service companies alike worked with Pennsylvanians to assist residents, preserve the land, protect the waterways and rebuild the roads.  Their aid was not requested.  The law did not require it.  There were no regulations in place mandating financial contributions or restoration efforts.

Like politics and gun control, whether or not development by the Shale Gas Industry benefits the Marcellus region is a topic often hotly debated among Pennsylvanians. Stories like these should be considered in the debate.

*  Laurie Alberts Salita is a partner at Blank Rome LLP who practices primarily in the areas of products liability, mass tort and aviation litigation.  Ms. Salita is a member of the Firm’s Shale Oil and Gas practice.  Blank Rome LLP is a full-service law firm with offices throughout the United States and China.

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