MSC’s Klaber in the Post-Gazette: Natural Gas “The Jobs Plan America Should Embrace”

Kathryn Klaber: Domestic natural gas
At a time when we’re hungry for work, it’s the jobs plan America should embrace
Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We hope the president and leaders across the nation will embrace the historic economic, environmental and energy security opportunity that exists “in the shale under our feet.”

President Barack Obama will convene a meeting in Pittsburgh today to address perhaps the most critical issue facing our nation: job creation. As leaders of both parties work toward common sense solutions aimed at putting a dent in our 9.1 national unemployment rate, we urge the president and his jobs council to consider the positive economic sea change underway in our region.

Pennsylvania continues to be the tip of our nation’s economic spear. The responsible development of shale gas is bringing about an economic renaissance — ushering in the type of job creation that our nation so desperately needs — that few could have projected just years ago

For his part, the president has acknowledged the shale revolution. In a March speech, he said “the potential for natural gas is enormous,” noting that there is broad bipartisan support for using more of this abundant, clean-burning, homegrown resource “in the shale under our feet.” He’s absolutely right.

Rural communities across the commonwealth, on a daily basis, are seeing firsthand the countless economic, environmental and energy security benefits associated with the responsible development of clean-burning natural gas. And as more natural gas continues to be safely developed, our industry is laser-focused: we must remain diligent in protecting our environment, we must be good neighbors and we must get this historic opportunity right.

On the environmental front, we continue to work with federal, state and local officials to put in place common sense regulations aimed at protecting our water and air. Building on efforts put forth by Gov. Rendell’s administration, Gov. Corbett — with support from our industry — is continuously working to modernize our state environmental laws to reflect today’s evolving technologies.

Chief examples include enhancing well casing standards to protect groundwater supplies, increasing permitting fees to ensure that Pennsylvania taxpayers do not shoulder any burden for additional regulators, putting an end to surface water discharges and furthering our commitment to research and development of new technologies.

At the same time, we are now recycling, treating and reusing more water from our operations. As these technologies — many of them developed by Pennsylvania businesses — advance, the overall water recycle and reuse rates continue to climb.

Perhaps most relevant to the president’s meeting today, our work and investments are creating jobs. Thousands of them — right here in Pennsylvania, for Pennsylvanians, at a time when they’re most needed. According to the state Department of Labor and Industry, our industry has helped put nearly 48,000 people to work over the past year.

These are good, family-sustaining jobs, and not exclusive to those who work long hours on drilling rigs. The supply chain that supports our industry’s work is robust and its economic impact is cascading. Recently, the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Washington County — one of the most active Marcellus producing regions — had the third highest percent increase in employment in the entire nation.

Further, as more supplies of American natural gas are safely produced, consumers are seeing more stable and affordable energy costs — welcome relief during these historically challenging economic times. In fact, according to a recent study by Penn State University researchers, Pennsylvania consumers saved nearly $633 million on their utility bills last year as American natural gas supplies expanded. With winter approaching, those savings are bound to have a meaningful impact again this year.

We are a nation of innovators, of doers, of problem solvers. Safe and responsible natural gas production has been taking place for decades, and we’re taking the steps needed to keep this job-creating industry sustainable for decades to come. We hope the president and leaders across the nation will embrace the historic economic, environmental and energy security opportunity that exists “in the shale under our feet.”

Kathryn Klaber is the president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (www.marcelluscoalition.org).

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