Pennsylvania's economy, especially in the seventeen rural counties I represent, has been hit hard by the recent economic downturn. Unemployment is at record levels, families are struggling and Washington's response has been to shovel a trillion plus dollars out the door in make-work projects that haven't stimulated much more than our national debt.
But there is hope and it is in our own back yards. Better put, it's about 6,000 feet beneath the surface and it is called the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation. It stretches from New York to Kentucky with most of the clean-burning shale gas located in Pennsylvania. Some scientists believe it is the largest natural gas reserve in the world. If the energy industry is allowed to continue to harvest Marcellus Shale gas, it will create more jobs and bring more wealth to Pennsylvania than any industry in the history of the state.
Clean, safe, responsible, well-regulated Marcellus natural gas production in Pennsylvania has already paid dividends for our region and Commonwealth. According to a recent Penn State study, Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling last year generated 29,000 jobs, added $2.3 billion to the economy and generated $240 million in state and local taxes. For 2009 the estimates are 48,000 jobs, $400 million in tax revenues and economic output will top $3.8 billion.
Without the environmentally safe and proven 60-year old drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, the clean-burning natural gas could not be produced from the Marcellus or any other place in the country.
Despite its clear record of environmental safety (a million wells drilled) and strong regulation by the states' environmental protection departments, a bill, S.1215, introduced by Senators Casey (D-PA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), and mirrored in the House, HR. 2766, would redirect fracking regulatory authority under the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in Washington. While some claim that these efforts are merely aimed at frac fluid disclosure - even though Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, lists these fluids online - the consequences of this legislation are much greater. It will give the Sierra Club and others opposed another tool to stop drilling by tying the process up in the courts for years. As stated by a Sierra club affiliate: "In the absence of government protection, the last resort may be the legal system."
In the study conducted by the independent Penn State experts, they concluded that this legislation could "pose yet another serious threat to the development of the Marcellus Shale." Describing the legislation as "ominous," the professors determined, "There is little question that this type of legislation would accomplish little in terms of protecting potable freshwater but would be disastrous in terms of the domestic oil and gas industry, raise prices for gasoline and natural gas, and ultimately derail any efforts to address the need to reduce carbon emissions."
The Marcellus Shale presents a tremendous opportunity to expand and grow Pennsylvania's economy, get people back to work, decrease our debt and lessen our dependence on imported energy. I will continue to work to help ensure that happens through maintaining support for the state regulation of hydraulic fracturing, and opposing legislation that would impede Pennsylvania's safe, clean, and well-regulated development of energy.
U.S. Representative Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Howard, represents the 5th District of Pennsylvania.