By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The boom in the Marcellus Shale has been a major shot in the arm for the economy in our region, but now an abundant supply and dropping natural gas prices has cooled that boom off.

Shale gas production companies and their suppliers have cut back production and laid off a lot of workers.

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That is sending ripples through the economy of Washington, Greene, and Fayette counties.

The brisket, chicken and ribs haven’t lost their sizzle at Hogfathers in Canonsburg — where the lunchtime crowd sits shoulder to shoulder tearing into delicious barbeque.

Owner Frank Puskarich and his customers says times have gotten tougher now that the boom in Marcellus Shale development has cooled.

“Folks have lost jobs. Lot of layoffs which happen when you have a downturn.”

Shale gas development has stalled in Marcellus country where an abundant supply and a steady drop in natural gas prices has meant layoffs and drastic cutbacks in production.

There are fewer gas workers to feed at Hogfathers and those that remain have tighter belts.

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“There’s no doubt that rig county decline and a decline in the production of oil and natural gas has had a significant impact on this industry,” says David Spigelmyer of the Marcellus Coalition.

The number of new drilling rigs has dropped to 112 in 2012 to just 30 this year — as the shale gas industry has become a victim of its own success having produced now a glut of natural gas.

“We’ve gone from a period of scarcity to abundance and from high price to availability,” Spigelmyer says.

And while household — especially in this region — will benefit for lower home heating costs this winter — those who depend upon the natural gas industry for a living will struggle.

Hogfathers has had to cut back about ten-percent of its staff. but Frank looks for a rebound.

“There’s still a lot of rig out there punching holes in the ground. Someone’s going to have to frack them eventually,” Puskcarish said.

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