Appalachian Basin

Experts Tout Shale at Steubenville Congressional Subcommittee Hearing

The once quiet town of Steubenville has sprung to life over the past 6 months earning statewide, and national, fame for the astounding economic growth happening there.  Just a few years ago the town faced an all but certain rust-belt future until Utica Shale development changed that dynamic.  Now, in just the past few months, the Town was highlighted on ABC News, hosted the first State of the State Address outside of Columbus and this week hosted a field hearing of  the U.S.  House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Oversight.

The hearing, “Natural Gas- America’s New Energy Opportunity: Creating Jobs, Energy and Community Growth”, featured industry experts as well as Congressmen Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Glenn Thompson (R-PA.), and Ohio’s Bill Johnson (R-Ohio).

While many items were discussed, the primary highlight was the tremendous economic opportunities shale development is bringing to Ohio and the nation.

While Ohio has yet to realize all the benefits the Utica Shale will bring, Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson has the advantage of experience as his state has been developing the Marcellus Shale since 2004.  He touched on this briefly during his comments:

Hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas shale formations has unlocked previously inaccessible and vast new energy supplies which has lowered energy costs in regions across the country, including in my home state of Pennsylvania and here in Ohio, offering new incentives for more businesses to locate their operations here in the U.S. and new economic fortune and added jobs to our local communities, said Thompson.

He’s not kidding, in Pennsylvania latest statistics from the Department of Labor show that 229,000 people – almost 2% of the state’s population- are employed either directly, or indirectly, from the development of the Marcellus Shale.

That said, the real highlight was stories from home-grown Ohioans discussing how their businesses have prospered, thanks to the development of the Utica Shale.

Jack PoundsPresident of Ohio’s Chemistry Technology Council, presented good news from the chemical industry. Pounds noted that the chemical industry was in a state of low to no growth over the last decade. Now with shale exploration, the situation for the industry has changed, according to Pounds:

With the emergence of Ohio’s vast shale gas reserves onto the scene, it is my belief that Ohio’s chemical industry is about to experience a renaissance

Mr. Pounds isn’t wrong in his predictions.  A recent study commissioned by the American Chemistry Council found that shale development is set to create 400,000 jobs, generate $132.4 billion in new economic output and send nearly $43.9 billion to state, federal and local governments in the form of new tax revenue.

While Jack Pounds talked about what is coming, Roland “Butch” Taylor talked about what he is already seeing in Youngstown:

Our Local went from close to 40% unemployment two years ago, to full employment, with over 440 traveling members from the United Association from all over the country working in our jurisdiction at one time. And no lay-offs are in the future.

Mr. Taylor’s local is so busy a coworker asked if he was having headaches from all of the work. His reply was simple; I would rather handle the headaches than the heartaches that we have experienced these past few years when there were no opportunities.

Mr. Taylor closed with a quick note what a moratorium on development would mean to the hard-working men and women of his Union.

There have been a few elected officials wanting to place a moratorium on this industry. I feel that this would be a travesty, especially considering the growth that we have experienced already, and the drilling process has not even started yet.

Also appearing before the panel was Ed Looman, Executive Director of Progress Alliance.  Looman highlighted the never before seen levels of economic growth being experienced in Stubenville thanks to Utica Shale development.

We either have or are working with more than 35 companies looking to move here as part of the shale experience.

This is what is waiting for cities and towns up and down eastern Ohio. Opportunities that we never thought we would see again. Shale production is just beginning and places are already seeing the positives from the development.

Of course, any mention of positive impacts being accrued from shale development will draw some detractors.  This woman attempted to interrupt the event but her efforts fizzled as those in attendance know the truth.  Shale development is being conducted safely, and responsibly, providing jobs for thousands of Ohioans and potentially hundreds of thousands more in the coming year.

This likely won’t be the last event in Steubensville given the significant growth occurring in the town thanks to the Utica Shale.  Perhaps the next time the Subcommittee visits they will be able to visit a completely restored Grand Theatre thanks to the continued benefits Utica Shale development will bring.

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