At a time when the nation continues to reel from economic doldrums, reaching near crises proportions, it is comforting to know there are signs that give us reason to remain hopeful and know we too will prevail like the generations that came before us. These signs are in full view in Pennsylvania which has found progress by responsibly developing its natural gas resources. Development began in 2004 under a Democratic governor and has continued in earnest since then. Now the results are coming in and its good news for the residents of the Commonwealth. The best part is they know it and accept it by overwhelming margins.
Last week the rollout of new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis solidified what many Pennsylvania residents already know. Natural gas is sparking an economic renaissance in the Keystone State. The Commonwealth is home to the 7th fastest growing metropolitan area (Williamsport, PA experiencing 7.8% growth) and to two of the top ten growing counties in the United States (there are 3,141 counties in the U.S.) where employment grew by 4.3 percent (Washington County) and 4.2 percent (Butler County) respectively. A recent Quinnipac University poll also shows natural gas development isn’t as harmful and mysterious as its detractors attempt to make it appear. How else could you explain results showing that an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvania residents support natural gas development. The margin is not even close 62-30 percent. This isn’t based on political leanings either as Democrats in the State back natural gas production by a strong margin as well 50-41 percent.
Vince Matteo, head of the Williamsport Chamber of Commerce, summed up the situation being experienced there very succinctly in an article printed by the Williamsport Sun Gazette. He said:
“We have a 7.8-percent growth rate,” Vince Matteo, chamber president and CEO, said. “The numbers are obvious. The driving rate is the Marcellus Shale.”Williamsport has the highest growth rate in Pennsylvania. The growth of the Williamsport metropolitan area is the largest in the Marcellus Shale rock formation area, Matteo said. “It’s validating, what we’ve been saying all this time,” Matteo said. “Without the Marcellus Shale, any growth would be a lot lower.” … “The deeper in Marcellus Shale you go, the higher the growth rate,” Matteo said.
While the City grows it is also maintaining its character. In fact, it serves as a strong example that development and conservation are not always competing goals. A visitor to Williamsport will find the City is highlighted by the west branch of the Susquehanna River which provides 15 miles of navigable water supporting canoeing, kayaking and other recreational uses. Williamsport is also surrounded by 700,000 acres of parks flush with opportunities to experience nature through hiking, horseback riding or a number of other activities. It truly is a unique place.
We are living in a time hallmarked by deep political divisions, entrenched viewpoints and the dogged pursuit of political agendas. Our political debates are marked by disdain, disparagement and resentment. Natural gas has been caught up in this dynamic. This is unfortunate because at the heart of this issue are two very simple things- energy security and the promise of economic prosperity for our neighbors, friends and communities.
The sky is not falling. Quite the opposite, communities are being reborn and hopes are returning to areas that once thought that word had left their vocabulary indefinitely. All the while our landscapes aren’t being radically transformed as you can see here. Rather they are temporarily being developed to provide hope, prosperity and energy to people and a nation for decades. Pennsylvania shows experience trumps rhetoric every time.