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Sustainable Shale head calls for broad discussion

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Andrew Place once planted 5,500 trees on his 210-acre Greene County farm, adding native hardwoods to expand the habitat of a rare salamander.

Place is also the corporate director of energy and environmental policy at EQT Corp., a Pittsburgh-based energy company that has drilled more than 500 Marcellus Shale gas wells over the past four years. And he's the interim head of the newly formed Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a partnership between industry, environmentalists, and foundations, the Beaver County Times (http://bit.ly/13Fv6iA ) reported Monday.

He's all too aware that some see contradictions.

"Step away from the stereotypes. There are people across the spectrum. If you dig below the surface of somebody's title, you'll find that they're not as (one-dimensional) as you might think," said Place, who was at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection before he joined EQT.

The founding members of the Center for Sustainable Shale include Chevron, Shell, the Clean Air Task Force, Consol Energy, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Heinz Endowments and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The group is promoting stronger standards for drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a gas-rich formation that covers parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York.

Gaining membership is a critical piece in the center's success.

"There's downside risk to jumping into something new and little upside risk, so why not hold back for several months?" Place told the paper. "It's certainly not going to happen overnight."

As far as Place is concerned, it's not just about shale gas; it's a broader discussion about energy, costs, and jobs.

"It's about shale gas and nuclear and coal and renewables — wind and solar. It's about the cost of energy, the importance of energy for job creation, job preservation. Unless you are living off the grid, you are benefiting from this resource," Place said.