Natural Gas Is The Track To The Future
Ideal Steel Supply Corp. of New York and the Morristown & Erie Railway, Inc. of New Jersey became contractual partners in 2008 in an effort to purchase, preserve and redevelop The Stourbridge Railroad, a shortline rail operation serving Wayne and Pike Counties, Pennsylvania. The focus of this partnership has been to provide reliable rail freight service to industries interested in locating in Wayne County, particularly industries associated with natural gas production and distribution, while also providing rail excursions that support the local tourism industry.
During the ensuing two years, major investments were made in the railroad’s infrastructure, and the refinement of its operation, in order to attract trackside industry to Wayne County. Since that time many natural gas related companies have investigated freight rates for materials and services that would benefit their operations and eliminate truck traffic through the region. Due to these investments, the railroad is now poised to participate in the regional economic recovery that comes with natural gas exploration. Indeed, this recovery is essential to our railroad’s survival as well as the economic progress of the entire region.
Like anywhere, the economic livelihood of residents of the upper Delaware River basin depends on good jobs. Growth here has all but halted, manufacturing has disappeared and unemployment has soared in recent years. However, now we have an opportunity to turn all of that around with the responsible development of natural gas. Indeed, this industry has already created tremendous economic benefits in neighboring parts of Pennsylvania where small railroads are providing a cost effective, safe and environmentally conscious alternative to truck transportation.
The initial draft regulations promulgated by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) created restrictions that were excessive, redundant and unrealistic by design. We testified regarding these problems and now, at long last, the DRBC is poised to enact regulations we understand have been significantly over the initial draft. Thank goodness!
Absent reasonable regulations, it will become nearly impossible for natural gas development to conduct business in this section of Northeast Pennsylvania, especially in areas of special protection waters. Our economic future cannot be sacrificed to a no-growth vision that will leave our region in sustained poverty.
Without industrial growth, there will be no reason for our youth to return to the region after college. The impact of an aging population will be felt by community service organizations, volunteer emergency services and the business community and will only serve to expedite the pecuniary decline of the region.
Additionally, without the gas industry, the Stourbridge Railroad will undoubtedly be severely truncated or abandoned entirely. This would effectively remove another incentive for industrial or manufacturing interests to establish locations here and would likely end the railroad which has done so much for our tourism industry.
Hopefully, the DRBC regulations will reflect a balance between conservation and development. Anything less will only serve to exacerbate the spiraling decline of the region’s economy. We need natural gas and we need it now.