Shale Drilling Boom a Bust For Some Western Pennsylvania Towns

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By Craig Smith

John Mollenauer has viewed the prosperity raining on western Washington County from the Marcellus shale boom with all the longing of a kid staring through a candy store window.

He’s watched the demand for new homes soar in Cecil and North Strabane.

He’s seen high-end restaurants, hotels and retail outlets spring up to meet the needs of a burgeoning population in Peters.

And he’s looked on as dozens of gas companies set up camp in ultra-modern, glass-and-steel office buildings, generating more jobs than they can fill.

But Mollenauer, 79, in his second year as mayor of Charleroi, has heard barely a whimper of that boom in his struggling river town or anywhere else in eastern Washington County.

It’s all part of the “great shale divide” that some say has split the county into the haves and have-nots.

“We don’t see people clamoring to fill jobs or hotel accommodations in the Mon Valley,” Mollenauer said. “We don’t see that coming our way.”

“I call (Interstate) 79 the Mason-Dixon Line,” said state Rep. Peter Daley, D-California. “We live in the state of the Mon Valley, and they (residents of the western part of the county) live in the state of Washington County.”

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