Left-wing advocacy group MoveOn.org recently launched a new effort to oppose innovations that are propelling states like Pennsylvania toward a new abundance of locally produced energy. Not only is this helping to fuel America’s manufacturing renaissance, but it is also helping to make the United States more competitive in the international energy market, advancing our nation’s energy independence and keeping Pennsylvania residents warm in the recent harsh winter weather.
Unfortunately, this anti-development group is pushing activists to work to ban fracking in their local communities, without regard for the benefits that this critical energy resource is doing to help consumers across Pennsylvania and the nation. What are the benefits that would be taken away if Marcellus Shale production was threatened?
Let’s start with the environment. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States is leading all developed nations in reducing our carbon footprint since 2006. In fact, increased use of natural gas for electricity generation has led to a 20-year low in U.S. carbon emissions — without a federal or international carbon tax or cap and trade scheme. While it is important to understand that every energy source, including natural gas, has an impact on the environment, it is increasingly clear that our nation’s shale revolution is improving our environment while bolstering our economy.
Speaking of the economy, according to the state Department of Labor, Marcellus Shale development supports over 239,000 Pennsylvania jobs across a range of sectors, from construction and manufacturing to real estate and hospitality. Even more importantly, these are good-paying jobs that are supporting middle-class families in our communities.
But shale development provides more than work for Pennsylvania residents; it also has spurred investment in our communities and families. Gov. Corbett’s recently unveiled Energy = Jobs Energy Plan estimates that the oil and gas industries will inject more than $14 billion in investment into the Keystone State’s economy by 2020.
Last year, the natural gas industry sent Pennsylvania landowners $1.2 billion in royalty payments, and the state’s largest natural gas utilities have saved ratepayers $3,200 each over the past four years through rate reductions. In addition, legislation that Gov. Corbett signed into law in 2012 authorizing impact fees for shale development has resulted in $400 million in revenue in the last two years — on top of the $1.8 billion in state taxes that the natural gas industry has paid since 2008.
These opportunities are transforming lives for people across the state. Reversing this investment into our communities could be devastating to families across the state and region.
Finally, there is benefit to Pennsylvania’s consumers. 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 for pushing down prices. In most cases, prices this past December were less than half of what they were in December 2008, when the shale boom was just beginning.
Consumer Energy Alliance has long supported expanded use of natural gas as part of a comprehensive energy policy. It is clear that the use of natural gas has helped lower consumer prices and significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions. For these reasons, the alliance supports the safe production of natural gas through sound development of the Marcellus Shale formation’s abundant resources. 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.
That’s why we recently asked the co-sponsors of the Statewide Natural Gas Drilling Moratorium Act to withdraw their support for the bill. As a co-sponsor of this potentially harmful legislation, we ask that Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, abandon her support of any moratorium legislation or proposals that would ban Marcellus Shale development.
We can all agree that the benefits of properly regulated shale development are too great to sacrifice. These resources can be developed responsibly, so we do not need to choose between either the environment or energy development — we can have both. Our children deserve a beautiful environment and good economic opportunities. Pennsylvania shale development can bring both! Sen. Boscola, please join CEA and a majority of Pennsylvanians who, according to a recent Franklin & Marshall College poll, support the safe development of shale resources in the state.
Mike Butler is executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance-Mid Atlantic.