By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday launched its first major salvo in support of shale oil and gas development, unveiling a campaign promoting the economic benefits of the booming energy sector that is under fire from environmentalists.
The powerful business group will be running newspaper and radio ads in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia where the shale gas boom has sharply boosted drilling.
"There are critics and opponents and we welcome that debate," said Karen Harbert, who heads the energy arm of the chamber.
"We're going to take that on and humanize it with the real stories that are happening across the country."
Touting the potential of shale energy to revitalize areas hard hit by the economic downturn, Harbert said the "Shale Works for US" campaign will highlight local success stories with people already benefiting from shale development.
The chamber's campaign comes as green groups intensify their attacks on shale gas development. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups are planning a national rally in Washington D.C. on Saturday attacking hydraulic fracturing.
Advances in hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to extract fuel, have unlocked vast shale gas resources across the nation.
Some environmental groups have called for more federal regulation of fracking, which they say pollutes the air and taints groundwater. Supporters say the practice is safe and has been used for decades. Continued...