Pennsylvania's historic transformation continues

Kathryn Z. Klaber  

Kathryn Z. Klaber,
Chief Executive Officer,
Marcellus Shale Coalition

Given the demanding schedules oil and gas professionals must maintain, it is easy to lose sight of the positive progress the industry continues to make—and what these collective efforts, aimed at safely producing clean-burning domestic natural gas, mean for the Northeastern US and the country as a whole.

Natural gas production in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, despite a shift in drilling, continues to soar. In May, the US Energy Information Administration reported that "between 2009 and 2011, Pennsylvania's natural gas production more than quadrupled due to expanded horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing." And more recently, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection reported in August that natural gas production from the state's Marcellus shale for the first half of last year jumped 82%—from 2.4 bcfd in the first half of 2011 to 4.36 bcfd in the first half of 2012.

More clean-burning domestic natural gas is resulting in more affordable energy costs for consumers, more tax revenue for the Commonwealth, and of course more jobs. While the national economy remains largely stuck in neutral, Pennsylvania has added more than 240,000 jobs to its roster, according to the state's Department of Labor & Industry. Ranging from all levels of education, union and non-union, each job is supported by the natural gas industry.

And while every Pennsylvanian is benefitting from responsible Marcellus shale development, these undeniable benefits are all the more tangible across every inch of the Commonwealth through Act 13's impact fee disbursement of $204 million. With more than half of these revenues directed to local governments, communities are making important investments enabled by safe natural gas development. A common sense, modernized regulatory and legislative framework is crucial to building upon these shared successes.

What's more, the interconnectivity that now exists and continues to build between rural Pennsylvania communities where shale development occurs and the greater Philadelphia region is growing stronger by the day. Philadelphia's refinery sites are experiencing new life that few could have predicted just a few years ago—buoyed by abundant supplies of natural gas, which is a fundamental building block for a strong manufacturing sector.

Without question, the industry has entered a new chapter of American history. The nation is now isolated from major swings in natural gas prices and is dramatically more secure and competitive.

For perspective, a recent E&E News story about a 100-year-old manufacturing plant in Jeannette, Pa. underscores the cascading impact that this industry continues to have. Several years ago, the company was considering closing the facility altogether and moving its operations—and jobs—overseas. But today, it is now "hiring hundreds more union workers for its factory."

The principal reason? "Cheap natural gas from the Marcellus Shale means low-cost manufacturing. The drilling and attendant business means there is a strong source of demand. Pittsburgh's workers, known for their craftsmanship and work ethic, are another local asset," said John Delaney, dean of the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business.

What an exciting time for Pennsylvania: More jobs, economic activity, tax revenue, domestic energy, better air quality, and lower electricity and heating costs. This historic transformation is happening before our eyes.

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