By Cindy Ekas
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican representing the 9th Congressional District, said the Marcellus shale gas drilling industry offers a tremendous opportunity to revitalize the economy and create jobs in Fayette County and throughout Pennsylvania.
But as the gas drilling industry continues to grow, Shuster stressed the importance of making sure companies comply with state and federal guidelines so the environment continues to be protected.
“I want to make sure there are good-paying jobs in this area,” he told a crowd of about 100 people who gathered at the AMVETS Post 103 in Hopwood on Thursday.
“The population has been declining in Pennsylvania. Young people are leaving because we don’t have enough jobs,” Shuster added. “I also want to make sure that businesses stay in Pennsylvania.”
Fayette County will serve as the center of the Marcellus shale industry in Pennsylvania, Shuster said, because “this is the place with the wet gas, and that’s what they need.”
“But as the industry grows, I want to make sure the gas companies don’t stray away from responsible drilling practices,” he said to applause.
Although states like Oklahoma and Texas have embraced the oil and gas industry and its pipelines for many years, Shuster said, the industry is new to Pennsylvania and people are concerned.
“I understand why people are concerned,” the congressman said. “When they took the coal out of here, we had polluted streams. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
In the past, Shuster said, Pennsylvania was a very powerful state with a strong economy because of its coal, steel, timber and other booming industries.
“The gas industry gives us an opportunity to revitalize ourselves,” he said. “Pennsylvania could once again become a very powerful state.”
Shuster represents only the eastern portion of Fayette County, including the Hopwood area and the South Connellsville area.
He explained the 9th Congressional District in Pennsylvania could expand to include Fayette County and parts of Washington and Greene counties if redistricting is approved.
“I certainly hope that I can earn your support if I become your congressman,” he said. “I have a commitment to working hard. Pennsylvania lost a congressional seat due to the declining population, and that’s why redistricting had to be done.”
If redistricting takes place, U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, a Democrat, will no longer represent Fayette County.
Shuster said he remembers the first time he came to Fayette County 10 years ago.
“When I was driving through the mountains on my way here today, I saw the National Pike Water Authority, which was one of the first projects I worked on in Fayette County,” he said. “I drove past the Hopwood streetscape project, and I had fond memories of working on that project.
“I care about Fayette County,” he added. “It is a fantastic place. You have Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob, Fort Necessity, Ohiopyle and Nemacolin Woodlands, which are great tourist attractions.”
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