The Convention Center next month will host a conference called Shale Gas Insight 2011, bringing some of the biggest names in the energy industry - and their political patrons - to Philadelphia.
It also will attract some of the biggest names in the environmental opposition movement - and their political patrons - for a demonstration and counter conference, Shale Gas Outrage 2011.
The dueling events are scheduled for Sept. 7 and 8. On one side will be the chief executives of Consol Energy, Chesapeake Energy, and Range Resources, along with Gov. Corbett and former Gov. Tom Ridge.
On the other will be Josh Fox, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland. (The movie with the shot of the flaming kitchen faucet.)
Both will forcefully express their position on the gas-extraction method known as fracking, which is widely used for drilling the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.
As mayor of the host city, Michael Nutter no doubt would like to welcome the industry bigs and thank them for bringing their business here, something he occasionally does for conventioneers.
But as a Democrat who wants to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the nation, he could be seen as betraying core principles and political allies.
Instead, he seems determined to stay on the sideline.
Nutter was listed as a speaker at the industry gathering, inciting the environmentalists into a letter-writing lather. When the mayor later requested that his name be taken off the list, the "freedom from fracking" folks claimed credit.
"That is false. That is not the case," said Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald. He said that the industry group had listed the mayor as a speaker prematurely, and that Nutter had decided well before any letters of protest arrived not to speak.
The anti-fracking groups now are encouraging Nutter to attend their convention. Any chance of that happening?
"I can't imagine that he would," McDonald said.
- Troy Graham
Philadelphia has made an international impression with a strict curfew on teens and Mayor Nutter's promise to go after parents whose unsupervised children join in the moblike sprees recently plaguing the city.
This month, Nutter declared Center City and University City off-limits after 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays to anyone younger than 18; those minors have to be off the streets by midnight in the rest of the city.
Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety, has been on radio in Australia, Britain, and Germany, those countries curious about a practice they equate with wartime and totalitarianism.
U.S. cities are also intrigued. Detroit has called for advice. Kansas City, Mo., also struggling with downtown youth violence, is interested in the city law that holds parents accountable for kids' behavior, Gillison said.
Gillison wants it known that the city is not outlawing childhood after dark.