State senator says industry can solve area’s economic problems

Last updated: November 14. 2013 11:23PM - 3926 Views
BILL O’BOYLE boboyle@timesleader.com

State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, addresses about 100 people at the Marcellus Shale Seminar Thursday at the East Mountain Inn in Plains Township.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, addresses about 100 people at the Marcellus Shale Seminar Thursday at the East Mountain Inn in Plains Township.
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PLAINS TWP. — State Sen. John Yudichak Thursday said the Marcellus shale industry will lift Northeastern Pennsylvania “out of the cloud of economic hardship” and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, and Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, co-hosted a seminar at East Mountain Inn that was attended by more than 100 representatives of local contractors, trade unions, small manufacturers and others interested in new business and job growth from the industry.

“Thank you for being here today to help us shape a comprehensive energy policy for Pennsylvania that will mean jobs and business opportunities for Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Yudichak said. “We are all here for one reason and singular goal — to learn how NEPA can leverage the transformational economic opportunity presented by Marcellus shale into the creation of new jobs, new businesses and sustainable economic growth that will finally break the cycle of chronic high unemployment in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton metropolitan area.”

A four-member panel comprised of Matt Henderson, Penn State University; Chris Staffel, Williams/Transco; Cherie Gudz, Microbac; and Dave Webber, Laborers International Union, discussed issues related to the natural gas industry.

John Augustine, community outreach manager for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, gave a detailed presentation on the state of the industry, its economic impact and the anticipated growth over the next 40 to 50 years.

Augustine said the Marcellus shale region produces 12 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day and will soon surpass 13 billion cubic feet per day. He said that translates to well over 4 trillion cubic feet per year.

Augustine said the industry employs about 232,000 people with an average salary of $83,000 per year. Between 2010 and 2012, Augustine said there were 4,500 wells drilled, representing a $31.5 billion investment. He said the projects are even higher for 2013 and beyond.

He said the industry has generated $1.8 billion in tax revenue since 2006.

Webber said the gas industry has dramatically grown jobs for members of his union. He said since 2006, the union man hours have grown from 200,000 to 3.6 million in 2012. He said 60 percent of those hours are worked in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Yudichak said he has been particularly impressed with the tremendous turnout and enthusiastic interest in Thursday’s forum from leaders of organized labor, area business leaders and the many leaders of area colleges.

Yudichak said while the Marcellus boom has brought prosperity and economic development to many regions of the Commonwealth, creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs for Pennsylvania workers, unemployment remains “stubbornly too high” in Northeastern Pennsylvania and economic growth, he said, is static at best.

“The sobering economic numbers that continue to plague NEPA can be overcome,” he said. “They can be reversed if we make the most of the new energy economy developing around us. Marcellus shale presents that opportunity of NEPA.”

At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, Yudichak said the natural gas industry will “power modern manufacturing plants, fuel more efficient vehicles and light the way for new technologies” that push the boundaries of health, science and commerce.

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