Fact-Checking Rep. Pashinski’s Times Leader Column
As a Luzerne County resident, I read Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski’s recent article in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader with alarm, especially when he called Act 13 “a wasted opportunity,” before complaining how our county, with no drilling what-so-ever, will be victimized by the industry. His remarks seemed more like a concession to the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC) than anything. Where are the facts to back up his questionable assertions?
Let’s go through Rep. Pashinski’s commentary point by point.
For counties with little drilling – such as Luzerne – the embarrassingly low impact fee, loss of local control and weak environmental protections is a terrible deal. With another year of deep state budget cuts likely, local taxpayers could feel it, too.
What taxpayers will feel it? Well, Pashinski doesn’t say. He simply issues a “could” backed up with zero information. The natural gas industry has been developing the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania for over four years and the facts yield a much different perspective. Natural gas operators, for example, seek NO tax breaks, subsides or incentives from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to develop the Marcellus Shale in the state. Therefore, they are not a drain on Pennsylvania taxpayers but a huge boon. Some examples from recent studies include:
- During 2010, the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale natural gas industry triggered $11.2 billion in economic activity, generated $1.1 billion in state and local taxes, and supported nearly 140,000 jobs.
- As a result of Pennsylvania Marcellus production, residential electricity and natural gas bills across the Commonwealth are $245.1 million lower [$217.4 million from lower natural gas bills and another $27.7 million from lower electricity bills].
- In 2010 alone, natural gas companies paid over $1.6 billion in lease and bonus payments to Pennsylvania landowners.
Low unemployment is another way the industry has contributed to the Pennsylvania economy. Thousands of individuals from across the state –myself included- now have steady high paying jobs, with benefits and retirement plans. From the state’s perspective this means more sale tax, corporate tax, and personal income taxes revenues. It also means fewer social services that definitely burden Pennsylvania taxpayers. Bradford and Susquehanna Counties added 3,600 jobs over the last four years due to natural gas and you can bet Luzerne County workers received some much appreciated jobs as well. All in all, the Marcellus Shale is responsible for employing over 229,000 individuals – almost two percent of the Commonwealth’s population.
In addition to these benefits, the industry has paid more then its fair share in additional resources to operate in Pennsylvania. One example, is the more then $500 million dollars spent by producers over the last few years repairing and maintaining infrastructure, often building roads superior to what PennDOT and local townships could ever consider.
Additionally, the industry has collectively donated millions of dollars to local emergency agencies, non-profits, hospitals, and even school districts. Including providing over $1 million to local communities to help recover from historic flooding that hit our area last fall. Once again, these activities come at no cost to the Pennsylvania taxpayer.
Also from Rep. Pashinski:
The law actually makes the impacts here worse by stripping most of the zoning power from local officials to place reasonable limits on the industry. That means municipalities have little ability to determine where pipelines and natural gas compressor stations, such as one proposed by Chief Gathering LLC near a Dallas School District complex, are built.
The “loss of local control” to which Rep. Pashinski refers is conveniently not defined. The state has always largely preempted local government from regulating oil and natural gas development in Pennsylvania. There are many reasons for this preemption but, foremost, is the state’s intent to develop this domestic resource in a safe, responsible and efficient manner. It has proven to be an economic boost to the Commonwealth and Pennsylvania’s legislature wants to ensure it continues to be such.
Moreover, the Department of Environmental Protection is very experienced in regulating oil and natural gas. Local municipalities are not. They do not, for financial and technical reasons, possess the proper resources to adequately regulate such development.
It also appears Rep. Pashinski has little understanding of what happened in Dallas with the Chief Oil & Gas facilities. Dallas Township has had a Transco pipeline running through the community for decades. The Dallas High School, and surrounding school complex, was actually built after the pipeline (right next to it actually). . The high school and the Transco pipeline have operated side by side for decades with no issues, as is the case with thousands of miles of pipeline running throughout the United States.
This particular high school and pipeline project are only famous because of a year long hearing process, dragged out by the GDAC’s incessant speculation of harm. After months of deliberation, the project was approved. During the entire process, the industry displayed a willingness to compromise and adjust its plans, electing, for example, to build only the bare necessities into a metering station and, thereby, minimizing concerns any residents might have had.
Given these statements, one must ask if Rep. Pashinski has objectively considered Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania or is he just listening to the agenda driven GDAC? Much of Rep. Pashinski’s arguments mirror the GDAC’s opinions of Act 13. His specific reference to the Chief and Williams metering stations and the required connections to the Transco pipeline also mimic the voice of GDAC, which was so adamantly against these projects.
Where is Rep. Pashinski’s evidence supporting any of his claims? Well, there appears to be none. The facts run against his arguments, in fact, as is the case for most GDAC claims. Unfortunately for GDAC and Rep. Pashinski the facts are irrefutable – natural gas is good for Luzerne County, good for Pennsylvania and good for America.