Anti-development efforts promoting a statewide moratorium on shale development would reverse economic progress in Northeastern Pennsylvania, writes CEA President David Holt in the The Times Leader.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett recently unveiled a 73-page energy plan, called “Energy = Jobs,” that rests on three pillars: Pennsylvania’s standing as a national leader in energy production, development of a diverse portfolio of energy sources to meet the state’s needs, and development of a first-rate workforce.
As C. Alan Walker, the state’s Secretary of Community and Economic Development recently wrote about the plan, “We’re embracing an ‘all of the above — and below’ energy plan. This means we will encourage private industry to develop all of Pennsylvania’s energy resources, including traditional fossil fuels of coal, oil, and shale gas, and renewable sources like wind, solar, hydropower and biomass.”
Consumer Energy Alliance agrees with embracing an “all of the above” approach since the organization’s mission is to promote U.S. energy production. Together with our diverse membership, we support public policies that ensure consumers can access affordable energy and that the energy is developed safely and responsibly.
We advocate for opening areas off of U.S. shores in the Atlantic, the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico to energy development. We work with both federal and state governments to promote the pursuit of shale energy. We support diversifying our energy portfolio by developing and utilizing renewable sources of energy. CEA is a strong voice for fortifying America’s energy infrastructure, such as the electric grid or gas and oil pipelines. We encourage power generation that utilizes all available resources at our disposal to keep consumer prices reasonable and electricity reliable.
Unfortunately, far too often energy consumers are confronted by organizations that promote one narrow view: No to everything. No to Arctic development. No to Keystone XL. No to the Gulf. No to wind. No to transmission lines. Anti-development activists see only a binary world. Do nothing or face disaster. The false choice of the environment is pitted against development.
Now these organizations are focused on saying no to Pennsylvania‘s future energy development through their efforts to push a statewide moratorium on shale development. This would turn back the clock on the progress that has been made in the past five years to energize Northeastern Pennsylvania’s economy and would harm development of the Marcellus Shale, which was responsible for nearly one-fifth of the total U.S. natural gas production in December 2013.
Consumers from across Pennsylvania – and nationally— continue to benefit from this tremendous resource. Recently, The Associated Press found that about two-thirds of Pennsylvanians who heat their homes with natural gas went into the winter season paying the lowest prices in a decade for this time of year, according to rate information from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Utilities credit the huge volume of gas being produced from the Marcellus Shale formation underneath Pennsylvania to pushing down prices. In most cases, prices this past December were less than half what they were in December 2008, when the shale boom was just beginning.
However, the importance of shale energy development in Pennsylvania goes beyond supplying the energy we need to power our industries and heat our homes. It’s laying the foundation for Northeastern Pennsylvania’s economic renaissance. According to the state Department of Labor, Marcellus Shale development supports more than 239,000 jobs in Pennsylvania across a range of sectors, from construction and manufacturing to real estate and hospitality. Even more important, these are high-wage jobs that are improving the lives of middle-class families in our communities across the state. This is bringing good news to Northeastern Pennsylvania, where wages typically lag behind state and national averages.
But shale energy development isn’t only providing job opportunities for Northeastern Pennsylvania residents; it’s also spurring investment in our communities and families while ensuring some of the most stringent environmental standards on record. Just last month, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency approved the use of $2 million to fund housing projects in Northeastern Pennsylvania that stemmed from “impact fee” funding. This comes on top of an announced half-million dollars in funds to Lackawanna County for trail maintenance, park renovation, and water and sewer line projects. An additional $4 million in impact fees were directed to similar projects in Luzerne County.
Shale development is also helping the region’s schools. According to William B. Bush, superintendent of the Elk Lake School District, the district has greatly benefited from receiving financial resources to program development and support. To date, the district has received approximately $2 million in lease and royalty payments, which has enabled the district to keep real estate taxes low. Make no mistake, these opportunities are transforming lives for people across the state, especially here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The Keystone State is uniquely positioned for economic growth for many future generations, and its future should not hang in the balance of potential fracking bans or moratoriums.
We can all agree that the benefits of properly regulated shale development are too great to sacrifice. These resources can be developed responsibly, so the false argument that it is either the environment or energy development increasingly rings hollow. Our children deserve a beautiful environment AND good economic opportunities. Pennsylvania shale development can bring both!
Please join CEA and a plurality of Pennsylvanians who, according to a recent Muhlenberg College poll, support continued shale development in the state.