Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Marcellus Shale: Reigniting state’s energy potential

By Congressman Bill Shuster:

In 1859, the first commercially successful oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania and our state became the leading producer of oil in America for over a generation. Now, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to recapture its past by becoming a leading producer of another energy source, shale gas.

The Marcellus Shale, which underlies a vast majority of the state, is the largest unconventional natural gas reserve in the world. There is enormous economic potential for Pennsylvania to take advantage of this reserve as new drilling techniques have unlocked vast resources previously impossible to reach. Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale will generate $14 billion and has the potential to create 98,000 jobs in 2010 alone, and will bring in $800M in state and local tax revenue.

Natural gas is a key energy resource in our quest to become more energy independent. Just a few years ago, we thought domestic production of natural gas had peaked. With the discovery of the enormous amount of shale gas underlying Pennsylvania and several other states, and the mastery of technology necessary to reach it, we have enough domestic gas reserves to last us over a century, allowing us to produce, not import a greater share of our energy needs.

Activity is picking up in Pennsylvania, with numerous companies beginning exploration and operations throughout the Marcellus. They bring with them job potential not only for those directly involved with drilling operations, but for other industries as well. From steel to rail, other industries are already responding to the needs of the growing gas industry. This will lead to more jobs and economic growth throughout the state. It is important that we recognize the enormous potential shale gas holds for Pennsylvania and encourage this growing industry with smart policies that encourage economic development.

The state of Pennsylvania has been doing a good job of this so far, balancing the needs of development with the protection of our environment. Natural gas drilling is effectively regulated at the state level by the Department of Environmental Protection. I believe the state continues to be in the best position to manage and regulate the industry. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency is looking to take over at the federal level and may restrict drilling activities that would limit the potential growth and positive impact on the state.

The federal government is considering regulation of a critical drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, which is necessary to recover gas from the Marcellus Shale. Hydraulic fracturing has been used safely for 60 years; over 1 million wells have been hydraulically fractured and there has never been a single documented case of groundwater contamination. The practice is regulated effectively at the state level and there is simply no need for the federal government to step in with unduly burdensome regulations.

The successful development of natural gas represents one of our best opportunities to reignite Pennsylvania as a center for innovation and economic growth . In this sense, we stand at a crossroads that will define what our state will look like for generations to come. Will we choose to develop the Marcellus Shale and give our children the chance to prosper or will we allow government, red tape and bureaucracy get in the way? The choice is clear and the choice is development of natural gas.

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