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Rallies for, against shale drilling planned

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Two rallies tied to natural-gas drilling are planned in Harrisburg tomorrow.

Natural-gas lobbyist Marcellus Shale Coalition will hold the “Pennsylvania Jobs, Pennsylvania Energy Rally” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The rally is meant to tell legislators and the public that there are many who have benefited from the natural-gas boom that started in 2008, according to the coalition.

Attendees will organize at Metro Bank Park on City Island. Then around noon, the group will march to the state Capitol steps. At least 2,000 people have registered to attend, and many more are expected to show up the day of the event, said coalition spokesman Travis Windle.

A number of speakers are planned, and the event will include a good cross-section of people who have seen benefits from shale drilling, he said.

“When we travel across the commonwealth, there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who may not work at well site, but are supportive of drilling,” he said. “They are seeing communities being revitalized. This event, and others like it going forward give a voice and a platform to those who support this historic opportunity.”

The Keystone Trails Association is planning a counter-rally to stress that a no-holds-barred approach to gas drilling is the wrong path, said association spokeswoman Shanna Klucar. The organization protects and promotes recreational hiking trails and hiking opportunities in Pennsylvania.

The rally will be from noon to 1 p.m. in front of KTA headquarters, 101 N. Front St.

“Not all Pennsylvanians support unrestricted drilling, and safer more responsible practices are necessary to protect Pennsylvania’s fragile forests and trails,” she wrote in an email this morning. “Hiking trails and hikers have been significantly impacted by gas drilling in Pennsylvania. We support the moratorium on gas leasing of state forests and state parks.”

Klucar said there have been a growing number of conflicts between hikers and gas drillers. With more than 2,000 miles of long-distance hiking trails in the commonwealth, and more than 5,000 wells planned for drilling on public land, problems seem inevitable, she said.

“Hiker/gas driller conflicts are many and they are significant,” she said, citing examples of water pollution, sound pollution and security guards chasing hikers off trails, among other incidents.

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