Trump Attends Shale Conference

Supporters and protestors gather in Pittsburgh

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Trump Attends Shale Conference

Avaerie Fitzgerald, MANAGING EDITOR FOR AU LIVE

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Police barricaded the roads surrounding the David. L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Penn. on Oct. 23 in preparation for the Presidential Keynote Address. The Marcellus Shale Coalition Insight Conference brought President Donald Trump to discuss his plans for oil and gas companies and the future of pipelines.

Before the speech began, protestors lined the streets, blocked the roads and raised their signs high in the air to counteract the event — shouting, “You are not welcome here Donald Trump.”

Although the protests remained peaceful throughout the day, ultimately 14 people were taken into custody for blocking the streets and refusing to move.

Inside the building, speakers were on and off the stage throughout the day talking about natural gas development, areas that rely on the pipeline, marketing strategies and more. These speakers were part of the two-day conference, Oct. 23-24, where major corporations and companies were in attendance to learn more about the advancements of the oil and gas industry as well as network with others from all over the nation.

Harold G. Hamm, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources, introduced the President as he took the podium for this conference for the second time. The first time took place in 2016 when he was running as a presidential candidate.

Trump stated that in his first week in office he approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, which in turn created 48,000 jobs. A crowd of pipeline workers, welders and helpers (some that worked on those very pipelines) sat to the left and right of Trump on the stage.

While it was an open registration event, attendees were primarily from the three surrounding states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. These three states are known as the Appalachian Basin states.

Justin Hornback, an organizer of the Pipeliners Union 798, shook Trump’s hand as he stood on stage next to the 20 other members from his group.

“It was great to be a part of [the event] and to be able to shake hands with the President and see him talk about workers in the oil and gas field,” Hornback said. “It was a wonderful experience for the members and myself.”

The Pipeliners Union is part of the United Association, and 798 covers the largest area. The group has approximately 8,300 members that travel and work on the pipelines all across the country.

“The President has done a lot for the industry as a whole, including when he first got into office. [He] helped push through the approval for the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access,” he said.

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), brought up by Hornback, is one resource for understanding the levels and reports for any spillage.

“It’s been determined that the pipeline is the safest mode of transportation and one of the most efficient ways to transport oil, natural gas and liquids of almost any kind.”

A highlighted topic throughout the conference was the reduction of methane emissions and the job opportunities for pipeline workers.

“[PHMSA] has a statistic saying 99.99 percent of all product being pipelined gets to where they are going safely,” Hornback said.

While efforts for clean energy are in the works around the U.S., Trump said in his speech that “the clean energy act was a disaster,” to which the audience responded with cheers. He continued, stating, “it would have cost the American people nearly 40 billion dollars a year and caused electricity prices to soar to double digits, while cutting coal production by almost 250 million tons.”

Leatra Harper, attended both days of the conference, but she went for a different reason than most. She founded a nonprofit organization which collects information, such as public record requests, to make available to the public called “The FreshWater Accountability Project.”

Harper said she considered herself to be the “person in question” throughout the entire conference.

“It was not like a scientific conference. A lot of information was kept to themselves,” she said. “They could use more data from the industry.”

While Trump’s speech was the highlight of many that went to the conference, Harper believes that there were not a lot of solutions offered.

“They never really calculated the big cost of climate change,” Harper said. “We are dependent upon the environment. How do we separate looking at natural resources as dollar signs?”

In the end she was left with more questions than answers.

As the protests were going on outside, there were a few that brought their protest indoors. A handful of protesters in the crowd stood up and waved a sign that was quickly brought down by supporters, but the handful interrupted the President, yelling that he was, “dangerous.”

Being one of the Basin states, Ohio holds an important position in the debate of whether putting the pipeline in is good or bad for the future of the country.

Jacob Brown, president of Ashland University’s College Republicans, said, “Energy independence and blue collar job creation are generally great things. We [do] have to be mindful of environmental impacts as well.”

The creation of jobs and the cost of the environment are the two areas that the political parties have disagreed in the past. The installation of the pipeline is taking place in Ohio as well as several of the northern states, while the New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has refused the new gas pipelines.

The AU College Democrats issued a statement on the matter and said, “We [College Democrats] wholeheartedly disagree with continuing to frack and drill for natural gas. The environmental impact outweighs the short term economic benefits. Spills and leaks are too costly to the environment; acres of wetlands and other important habitats can be wiped out by just one mistake,” the group stated. “Native American groups were always told that they were foolish to worry about these environmental issues, but mere weeks ago, the Keystone Oil Pipeline leaked 383,000 gallons of oil.”

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