PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer was in town Thursday to give a presentation at the Shale Insight Conference.
It’s called Shale Insight 2017 – a conference in Pittsburgh with natural gas Shale leaders from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
“It gives us an opportunity to shine a light on the opportunities being created by having the most affordable and abundant natural gas supply on the planet here in our region,” Dave Spiegelmeyer, of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said.
With lots of exhibitors catering to the natural gas and Marcellus Shale crowd, attendees welcomed the chance to swap stories with each other and promote public policies that will grow their industry.
“It’s a great opportunity for those of us who are in the industry to hear new ideas and meet some of your colleagues understanding that most of the companies operating in the basin are geographically diverse,” Rob Boulware, of Seneca Resources, said.
Because of low oil prices – an energy source that competes – natural gas drilling tanked last year, but leaders like Boulware are optimistic of a turn-around.
“When you look at where we were about a year ago, there were fewer than 20 rigs running in the Pennsylvania basin, and now we’re over 30 rigs running in the Pennsylvania basin,” he said. “So you are seeing that uptick, and that’s important for the local economies where this activity takes place.”
The annual Marcellus Shale conference is really an opportunity for industry insiders to network with each other, but it’s also a chance to reassure the public that Marcellus Shale is still an important part of western Pennsylvania.
“Do I see an upside for us? Absolutely,” Spiegelmeyer said. “I think we’ve got new downstream opportunities emerging every day. We’ve been talking about the Shell petrochemical facility and what that can yield in terms of not only the jobs to build that facility – 6,000 jobs, 600 permanent jobs – but also the manufacturing opportunities that come from having the feedstock for plastics manufacturing right here in our region.”
Spicer gave the final keynote speech to the Marcellus Shale Conference, and he was upbeat about natural gas.
“While I may not be in the White House anymore, I remain unbelievably confident that this industry has a huge friend in the Oval Office and throughout this administration,” he said.
Of course, Spicer is well aware that his image has been shaped by actress Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal on “Saturday Night Live.”
“[I’m going to] step away from the podium for a second. It’s nice to leave it in a lot of ways,” Spicer said. Off the crowd’s laughter, he added, “Most of you get that.”
This was one of Spicer’s very first paid speeches to an organization, and most in the audience thought he did quite well. He spoke for nearly an hour without notes or a teleprompter.
And while Spicer spoke and answered questions about public policy, he also addressed his work as press secretary, beginning on his first day when he lied about the crowd size at the Trump inaugural.
“There I am on Saturday, dealing with what would be a very complex situation in terms of all the stuff that went out,” he said, “and we had no resources to rely on because most of my staff was scattered throughout and weren’t prepared to come in that day.”
One questioner asked if Spicer could share “insider baseball” on the president’s tweeting.
“He feels very dearly about it,” Spicer said. “He believes that fundamentally the use of social media helps him talk directly to the American people.”
It’s talk, says Spicer, that the president believes is not filtered by an often biased media.
Spicer now admits, particularly given Facebook, that the Russians may have sought to influence the 2016 election.
“There’s never been any evidence that it affected the outcome,” he said.
However others view his work as press secretary, Spicer admits, “For me, it has been unbelievably life-changing, as you can imagine.”