PITTSBURGH - The Marcellus Shale industry is trying to reclaim a word that has become one of the most effective weapons of natural gas foes: Fracking.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which opened its annual conference Wednesday in Pittsburgh, is launching a campaign aimed at countering the negative connotations associated with fracking, the term derived from the gas-extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing, which has become a catchall pejorative among activists for all aspects of drilling.

"Fracking's a good word," the narrators say in the industry's radio and television spots, which will roll out Thursday in Pennsylvania. The advertisements extol the energy security, job growth, lower heating costs, and tax revenue generated by the natural gas boom.

"Fracking: Rock solid for PA," the ads conclude.

"Folks have tried to hijack that word and paint it as something negative," said David J. Spigelmyer, the president of the industry trade group. "It's our effort to take that word back."

Michael Pavone, chief executive of the Harrisburg ad agency that created the campaign, unveiled the ads as the coalition's two-day conference opened at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

"It's about time your voices have been heard," Pavone told the audience. Nearly 1,800 participants have registered for the event.

A recurring lament at the shale coalition's fourth annual conference - the first three were held in Philadelphia - is that the oil and gas industry's discovery and development of shale gas is distorted by anti-fossil-fuel activists, and underappreciated by the public.

Bruce Rutherford, international director of the Jones Lang LaSalle real estate firm, said there was a "great sentiment" in the public of fear that gas producers "are making all this money, and they're raping us. It's just not true."

Randy J. Cleveland, president of XTO Energy, the ExxonMobil subsidiary that is the nation's largest gas producer, encouraged the industry to step up outreach with local communities.

"If you look across the country, in areas where we are welcomed vs. areas where we see resistance, local engagement is the common thread," he said. "Where it's strong, we thrive. And where it's weaker, we have difficulty."

Stephen Moore, chief economist of the Heritage Foundation, told the audience about talking to a group of students, most of whom soured when he spoke about fracking.

"My one piece of advice to the industry is to fight back," he said. "How can you be against fracking?"

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