Bradford native Dave Callahan believes Pennsylvania’s resources are a big part of America’s future energy independence.
The new president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition has spent his life around the natural gas industry, which he credits for his chosen career path.
“My mother and father worked for Columbia Gas. My grandfather worked for Columbia Gas,” he said, explaining that industry news was dinner-table conversation throughout his childhood.
That, coupled with memories of the energy crisis in the late 1970s, shaped his career, Callahan explained. “That scarcity stuck with me.”
Pennsylvania has the natural resources, and the industry to extract them.
“I can take it back to growing up in Bradford,” Callahan said. “We had a pump jack in our backyard. Mind you, it wasn’t ours. There was one across the street and up the hill. You’d hear those things cycling on and off all the time. The extraction industry is a big part of the region, a part of the fabric of Bradford and McKean County and that region.”
In many cases, including his, he and his family live in the communities where they work, which is one of the biggest incentives to make sure to take care of the land while extracting the resources.
“What we see in terms of folks who oppose the industry, there are some folks who are literally paid by foundations and others to seek and advance a narrative aimed at marginalizing our industry, and really insulting the good men and women who work in it,” Callahan said.
“It’s all about advancing a false narrative where we have to choose between economic development and environmental progress. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re able to achieve both.”
He said, “I’m firmly convinced natural gas is the way to do that.”
Callahan explained that directly and indirectly, the natural gas industry supports around 300,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. With progress have come changes to reduce the environmental impact of the industry.
“I think the industry has done a great job of advancing its environmental profile. We see the industry is now recycling 93% or more of wastewater,” he explained. “We see that the industry’s methane-intensity, meaning the amount of methane reduced per unit of methane produced, has dropped 82% since 2011. We’re making fantastic strides.
“The industry is a good community partner as well. We know our stakeholders at the community level are very important to us. They are important to our success. Why? Our families live and work there.”
Making the best use of the resources available is beneficial to the community. With the abundance of natural gas coming from the Shale, “we have energy security,” Callahan said.
However, President Biden’s “executive order blitz” ending the Keystone Pipeline — “infrastructure to get the product where it’s needed” — and the moratorium on leasing federal lands “could impact that security,” Callahan said.
These actions could end up having exactly the opposite effect of what is intended, he added. The fossil fuels are needed, and they have to come from somewhere. “Not everyone has world class environmental laws like we do,” he said, explaining other countries we might need to turn to could have lesser environmental standards.
While there is a focus on turning to renewable energy for the future, Callahan said he believes that natural gas can be part of it.
“Natural gas plays a very good supporting role for intermittent renewables. Natural gas is going to be valuable for decades and decades to come. We’re a clean fuel as well,” he explained.
Callahan referred to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who has championed natural gas production for energy security and for its economic benefits.
Manchin has written to President Joe Biden, asking him to consider the benefits of the industry.
“If you listen to some of the folks in Congress, like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (a Democrat) and others in our own state ... to understand that clean energy is the future, will unlock all kinds of opportunities,” Callahan continued. “We need an all-the-above strategy and allowing those opportunities to develop with technology will ensure that we’re not picking winners and choosing one form of energy over another.”
Callahan took over as president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition on Feb. 1, upon the retirement of David Spigelmyer. He is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania and earned a master’s degree from Syracuse University.
Describing the coalition, Callahan said, “We do our best to present fact-based information every single day. We’ve got about 125 members, from all segments of the industry. We’ve got strong member engagement. My job is to continue on the great work from my predecessor.
“It’s great to be working in an industry that’s providing abundant, clean resources.”