What Are You Waiting For, New York?

As the responsible development of the Marcellus Shale’s abundant, clean-burning natural gas reserves expands across the region, more stable and affordable supplies of homegrown energy are being delivered to consumers and small businesses who continue face tremendously difficult economic hardships. At the same time, this environmentally-proven production is helping to create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs for the local workforce, and positively impacting rural communities and small towns. At least largely in Pennsylvania, and West Virginia too.

You see, despite the fact the world’s first natural gas well was drilled in New York State some 185 years ago, the Marcellus Shale’s economic, environmental and energy security benefits are being fully realized in Pennsylvania, but not in the Empire State. Why? Well, leaders in Albany continue to maintain a policy of ‘hurry up and wait,’ keeping a de facto shale gas production moratorium in place as the state struggles with high unemployment and a spiraling budget crisis.

So what are other leaders, from neighboring Marcellus Shale gas-producing states, saying about this historic energy and economic development opportunity?

West Virginia state senator Mike Green, D-Raleigh, chairman of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee, “believes gas drilling OK if it’s safe for environment,” the Beckley Register-Herald reports. And we agree.

We as a state, and as elected leaders, obviously are welcoming the Marcellus shale exploration,” [Sen.] Green said Friday, emphasizing the abundance of the natural gas poses a major plus for the state’s continued economic growth and expansion of the tax base. “We welcome that industry with open arms,” he said.

The Mountain State’s acting governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, said this about responsible Marcellus Shale development in his state of the state address yesterday in Charleston:

The development of the Marcellus Shale formation for natural gas production is an economic development opportunity for the State, and we need to embrace it! Billions of dollars of private capital have already been invested in this activity and with it has come many jobs.

The development of the Marcellus Shale has the potential to restart the manufacturing industry in West Virginia. It is an opportunity that we simply cannot let go by.

How about water use in the shale gas production process, is it being effectively managed to ensure that the environment is protected? It absolutely is, according to Pennsylvania’s top environmental watchdog, Department of Environmental Protection secretary John Hanger. Secretary Hanger writes this in a recent Landsdale Reporter column:

Here’s the reality: every drop of tap water that was publicly treated is required to meet the safe drinking water standard.

And here’s what they’re saying about economic development and job creation tied directly to the responsible development of the Marcellus Shale’s clean-burning natural gas reserves, which continues to be largely left off the table in New York:

  • Opportunity knocks for economic development”: Drilling in the Marcellus Shale could rescue the ailing Southern Tier economy. But is it safe? Recovering this vast, lucrative resource relies on hydrofracking, which, while banned in New York, is legal in 12 states. We should lift the ban and drill. In 2010, Marcellus drilling generated 98,000 jobs and pumped $14 billion into the Pennsylvania economy. Over the next decade, Marcellus development will create 212,000 new jobs and generate $1.8 billion in tax revenues for Pennsylvania. Imagine your property taxes slashed, local businesses thriving and new ones opening. Imagine cash-strapped farmers holding onto the family farm, thanks to drilling income. This is only a dream in New York because big-city politicians want to keep upstate powerless and poor. … Ohio Gov. John Kasich is encouraging Marcellus Shale drilling; he says “there’s real potential to help a lot of people who have been in deep economic trouble for a long time.” Meanwhile, New York is on life support. Marcellus drilling could transfuse economic life into our area. (Elmira Star-Gazette Op-Ed, 1/12/11)
  • Natural gas drilling company looking to hire 90 with goal of all local labor”: Brothers Steven and Alan Peetz of Drums did well for a few years, driving trucks for a contractor involved in residential construction. The number of days they work, however, declined as fast as housing starts. On Tuesday, the brothers visited Scranton to see if they could get into the Marcellus Shale industry with Pumpco Services, a firm that performs hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells. More than 300 people filled out applications with the company. Pumpco local operations manager, Andy Winkler, said he was gratified by the turnout at the Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel. … People need to enjoy working outside and should be mechanically inclined. The job includes training on fracking technology, and the company is willing to train employees to get their commercial driver’s licenses. The company is also looking for diesel mechanics and a few electricians. (Scranton Times-Tribune, 1/12/11)
  • Natural gas boom keeps Sunbury painter busy”: Jamie Brumbach credits the booming natural gas industry with keeping him out of the poor house. “Without it, I’d be poor and unemployed,” said Brumbach, an industrial painter who signed a contract about six months ago to paint trailers used to haul frack water. … Brumbach is among thousands of Pennsylvania residents employed as a result of dozens of companies drilling in Marcellus Shale in the state’s Northern Tier. “It’s huge, and I’m all for it,” he said of the business. (Daily Item, 1/13/11)
  • Gas Drilling Company Hiring PA Workers”: One of the companies involved in natural gas drilling in our area wants to hire more local workers. Pumpco is holding a job fair until 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Radisson Hotel in Scranton. The company has about 30 openings. … The job involves working 14 hour days, 12 days on, 12 days off. Pumpco will pay 80 percent of the cost of your health care insurance, which includes medical and dental. Management said some of its workers can make $160,000 a year. (WNEP-TV, 1/11/11)
  • Atlas Energy launches $3 million expansion of Fayette facility”: One local natural gas exploration company has broadened 10-fold in the past several years and is continuing its growth with a $3 million expansion. Atlas Energy this month began construction on a 30,000 -square-foot addition to its office in the Fayette Business Park in Smithfield. The addition will include approximately 100 new office spaces, in addition to several large group-meeting rooms. The additional office space will accommodate many of the new employees that Atlas has hired over the past several years. In 2010, Atlas hired almost 70 new employees in Fayette County alone, “which is a big reason why we needed to expand our office,” Jeff Kupfer, Atlas senior vice president, said. … Company-wide, Atlas Energy has hired more than 210 new employees in 2010. (Herald-Standard, 1/9/11)
  • Regional job outlook starting to improve”: To the west, Broome monitors the Elmira area, which is seeing growth because of the booming Marcellus Shale natural gas play in Pennsylvania. When Texas-based Schlumberger Technology Corp. completes construction of its new facility in Horseheads later this year, the company predicts 300 to 400 new jobs will have been created during the transition from a temporary operating facility to a permanent one. The net effect on the regional job count falls right in line with the New York State Labor Department projections – a 38 percent increase in the number of people working for companies that provide support services for the natural gas industry. (Press & Sun-Bulletin, 1/8/11)

With 900,000 New Yorkers out of work, and the state dealing with a $9 billion gap in its budget, the question remains: What are leaders in Albany waiting for? New taxes, pay freezes for state workers, consolidation of public schools – these are some of the tools that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he’ll use to get the state back on a path toward fiscal sustainability.

How about one more? According to one study, Marcellus development could help create 16,000 new jobs and $15.3 billion in economic activity – and that’s just in Broome County alone.