Seven years after the first well was sunk in Pennsylvania, the Marcellus Shale has left its childhood and eagerly entered its adolescence. Reviewing this experience shows Marcellus development has provided tremendous benefits to the commonwealth.
Development has saved consumers millions of dollars in utility costs, with UGI’s customers paying $300 million less now than in 2008. It has employed more than 238,000 people in the commonwealth, almost 2 percent of the state’s population, and has provided more than $1.1 billion in tax revenues since 2006, a time when state and local budgets were stretched thin.
You don’t have to look far to see Pennsylvania counties, boroughs, townships and municipalities benefiting in ways not seen for generations. One example is Williamsport. Last year, the borough was the seventh-fastest-growing metropolitan area in the nation. That’s an acclaim unthinkable since the city was the “Lumber Capital of the World.”
Meanwhile, the northern tier continues to experience significant job growth. Bradford County, which contains the highest number of producing natural gas wells in the state, enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in Pennsylvania.
Last year, southwest Pennsylvania was home to two of the top 10 counties experiencing job growth in the nation. Washington County saw its employment grow by 4.3 percent, and Butler County wasn’t too far behind at 4.2 percent.
All of these examples came before the passage of Act 13. While the law engenders strong emotions and controversial court rulings, one thing is clear: It benefits all Pennsylvanians. In just its first year, the act will provide an additional $162.5 million to the commonwealth, including $35 million that goes directly to counties where shale development is taking place. These funds will restore roads, conserve special lands and support programs for all Pennsylvanians, including the neediest among us.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is in addition to taxes already paid as well as the more than $411 million in roadway investments that natural gas producers have made to improve Pennsylvania roadways.
Even as natural gas prices have slumped to 10-year lows, Marcellus development has continued to advance Pennsylvania’s economy. In fact, the benefits seem to compound each year as production increases. With the Marcellus now producing 10 percent of the nation’s natural gas supplies, the Marcellus will be a driving economic force for some time to come.
Most of rural Pennsylvania is, indeed, owned in large tracts by single landowners. How could it be otherwise in a state founded on agriculture?
The benefits, however, are widely distributed, not narrowly, as a Penn State study tried to have it by ignoring the hundreds of millions of dollars being generated by natural gas impact fees for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians.
Even narrower is the implied suggestion that local officials should regulate an industry they know little about. Throwing a highly technical industry up to regulation by 2,563 municipalities that don’t know it in any depth is an unworkable and unwise solution.