Labor leaders, elected officials, and business groups came to Pittsburgh this week in support of domestic oil and natural gas development at the 2016 Shale Insight Conference. The gathering featured speakers and panel discussions that highlighted a broad-base of support for hydraulic fracturing and the economic benefits that go along with it.
As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, Jim Kunz, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66, explained how shale turned the job situation around for his union:
“Half a dozen years ago, Mr. Kunz said his union was nearing 10 percent unemployment. A year later, when the shale industry started to take off, employment ramped up to 100 percent. In fact, Mr. Kunz said, the local had to recruit operators from other areas to fill the need.
And while he’s seen a dip in jobs in the past year that parallels the oil and gas downturn, he expects to be back up to full employment next year.
“It’s all driven by this industry,” he said.
Another labor leader, Roland “Butch” Taylor, retired business manager for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 396 in Ohio told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that oil and natural gas development has created enormous opportunities:
“I’m here because the industry has given us so much opportunity,” he said.
“It wasn’t a political decision, Mr. Taylor said. In fact, his message was about how successful his union has been in banding with business groups and members of both parties at the local level to oppose efforts by citizen and environmental groups to restrict natural gas development.”
Other speakers, like Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources told attendees that fracking has “changed the world.” As DC Media Group reports:
“Speaking at the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Sept. 21, Hamm said the U.S. shale gas sector has “changed the world” in a way that will provide energy security to the U.S. for the next 50 years.”
And as WESA public radio reported, that sentiment was echoed by Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer:
“There is no bigger issue today in our economy than energy,” Spigelmyer said. “These are issues every American has on their front burner right now. They know that energy is a driver for the opportunities for Americans to be affluent, to create wealth, to create benefit and opportunity for our citizens.”
Also addressing the conference was presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose comments touched on the economic cost of banning fracking. From Trump’s remarks:
“Hillary Clinton wants to put the coal miners out of work, ban hydraulic fracturing in most places, and extensively restrict and ban energy production on public lands and in most offshore areas. This will produce devastation for states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, where shale energy and coal production are critical parts of the economy.”
Trump’s comments are justified by a new report from the U.S. Chamber entitled “What if America’s Energy Renaissance Never Actually Happened?” In particular, the report details how Pennsylvania and Ohio, prominent areas represented at the Shale Insight Conference would have lost 232,400, $22.9 billion in state GDP and $13 billion in labor income annually without shale development.
Fortunately, strong coalitions are forming to reject the “Keep It In The Ground” movement and their allies in Washington. That is because the people of who actually live around the Appalachian Basin understand the economic and environmental benefits of fracking.