As NY Anxiously Awaits the Natural Gas Production Starting Gun, PA Already Seeing Huge Economic Impact from Marcellus

The Marcellus Shale – and the decades worth of clean-burning natural gas supplies that it holds – are reviving sluggish regions of Pennsylvania’s economy and helping to deliver thousands of dollars to rural landowners at a time when genuine economic stimulus is most needed.

Under the headline “Marcellus Shale brings big checks for some landowners,” the Patriot News reported this:

Hundreds of people from far-flung farms and rural communities across a large swath of northern Pennsylvania trekked to an American Legion post this weekend to have checks — often for large, life-changing amounts of money — pressed into their hands.

It went on throughout the day yesterday and continued this morning. Some people cried with happiness.

There were a lot of checks that were well over $100,000,” said Chip Lines-Burgess, who is attending the event. “It is a lot of money for people up here. It is a lot of money for people anywhere.”

The source of the money is some 6,000 feet below the ground in a layer of rock called Marcellus Shale. The rock contains huge amounts of natural gas. The checks came from a gas company that is buying gas drilling rights from locals. The biggest land owners will get millions of dollars up front, with more to follow if wells drilled on their land produce gas.

And while this only the beginning of the untold economic benefits presented by the Marcellus, the Harrisburg-based Patriot News reported this, too:

Overshadowing the debate is the vast economic power locked up in the Marcellus Shale. Some say the gas industry could create hundreds of thousands of jobs and pump billions of dollars into the state economy in years to come. While thousands of well permits have already been issued in Pennsylvania and hundreds of wells drilled, the Marcellus Shale “play” as observers call it, is only beginning.

“The Marcellus Shale segment of our industry is still in its infancy,” said Stephen Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association. “It is going to be years until we understand the scope and size of the industry.”

God has put the Marcellus Shale underneath our property,” said Lines-Burgess, a spokeswoman for the group. “We are about the luckiest people in the whole world right now.”

Regional newspapers are also singing the Marcellus Shale’s praises. The Williamsport Sun-Gazette wrote this in an editorial entitled “Expo shows true depth of gas drilling windfall”:

The diverse and robust economic impact of the potential natural gas drilling boom in our region was evident in numbers and scope at a natural gas business expo last weekend.

The expo was attended by more than 130 businesses and they talked to an estimated 1,000-plus visitors. But that is just the numbers part of the story.

A health center was represented because of the impact it can make providing physical therapy and meeting medical needs of gas wellfield workers.

A Montoursville businesswoman was looking for new businesses who need products to give away at, well, expos like the one last weekend.

A hose company was looking for buyers among the many gas drilling companies looking to use this area.

A storage shed business was looking to merchandise his housing for pipes and natural gas construction equipment.

These probably aren’t the first business opportunities that come to mind when thinking of the natural gas drilling industry’s economic impact on our region.

The paper closed with this:

As much as we talk about the employment temporary and long-term that the drilling can bring, all of the above examples will generate employment, too. They also represent expansion and profit opportunities for those existing businesses that may not have come along in a decade. If ever.

But when that industry carries with it the sort of broad-ranging economic opportunity that this one does, it’s in everyone’s best interests to make the three-way partnership of environment, government regulation and free enterprise work.

And on the important issue of regulation, and ensuring that natural gas production and hydraulic fracturing are done in an environmentally-sound fashion, State. Representative Garth Everett of Muncy, PA may have summed it best in telling the Sun-Gazette this yesterday:

Everett essentially said all efforts are done to help and protect the environment. He said he didn’t want a county that wasn’t the same for generations of children and grandchildren.

While states have effectively regulated hydraulic fracturing – the essential tool needed to produce clean-burning natural gas from shale formations, like the Marcellus, thousands of feet below ground – some in Washington favor a federal takeover of this commonsense regulatory understanding. Usurping state rights to permit, oversee and regulate fracking would all but halt natural gas production, and would threaten the economic development – like the ones mentioned above – associated with these 60-year old process.

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