Shepstone Management Company, Inc.
Much of the Commonwealth is shut down, but Pennsylvania’s shale region is still humming with business, activity and charity due to the natural gas industry.
There is an interesting article in the Philadelphia Inquirer today about you know what. The title? “‘It’s Going to Hurt’: Struggling Pa. Towns Brace for Financial Gut Punch from the Coronavirus.” Well, that may very well be true, but focusing on the negative doesn’t help. Moreover, there is one area of the Keystone State that’s still operating to a large extent and it’s the Pennsylvania’s gas region. Call it the Keystone of the Keystone State.
The Inquirer article isn’t bad as far it goes, but it is totally negative and largely focused on three long distressed places (Aliquippa, Greenville and Scranton) and how shutdowns were likely, as the movie says, to “leave a mark.” Never mentioned was the Pennsylvania’s gas industry, which is the predominant one in places such as Susquehanna County. That may be no coincidence as the Inquirer is a creature of the Lenfest Institute these days, which is is funded in a big way by the Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation, neither of whom is any fan of natural gas development.
But, there is story to tell and a darned good one, because the natural gas industry is still operating, being a life-essential activity under the Governor Tom Wolf’s guidelines. Cabot Oil and Gas, Chief Oil and Gas and Southwestern Energy, as well as the Williams and Energy Transfer pipeline companies, are still extracting and delivering natural gas. Pennsylvania’s gas industry is still humming, thank you.
Wells are being drilled and hydraulically fractured. Water trucks are running. Gas is being sent to places such as New York City as those folks hunker down in their gas-heated high-rise apartments. Thousands of people are still employed in Bradford, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Washington and Wyoming Counties; still serving America’s and the world’s energy needs, Not only that, but several restaurants are doing well with takeout business because those gas industry employees are still working. Gas stations are still pumping petrol, hardware stores are still trading in tools and banks are still cashing the checks.
The impact of the gas industry is enormous job-wise and it continues unabated. Here is a table showing, for example, how much of Susquehanna County’s economy is impacted by natural gas development. It focuses on just four sectors that are dramatically affected by the industry:
Notice that just these four sectors account for 1,840 jobs or 20% of all employment in the county and the average annual wage is $59,830. Two of the top 10 employers in Susquehanna County were, in fact, gas companies. There are some 237 establishments in total within these four sectors and they are generating over $110 million in personal income for the county.
This doesn’t include impacts on the lodging, dining, banking or education sectors, all of which are also significantly impacted. And, the good news today, right in the middle of the COVID problem that has shut down other areas almost completely, is that much of this still happening in the Pennsylvania gas region, thanks to shale gas development. Plus, shale people are still paying income taxes, still supporting everything we know as community.
Additionally, Pennsylvania’s gas region is getting direct help from the gas industry in dealing with the COVID crisis. Cabot supports the Weinberg Food Bank, for example, with a $250,000 annual contribution that is distributed to all sorts of projects such as Fill A Glass with Hope, which provides 10,00 servings of milk per year to the needy. Cabot has also allocated $50,000 of this specifically to supporting the COVID response. Southwestern Energy is, likewise, giving $50,000 to the Central PA Food Bank. Other companies are doing similar things; the money for all of which comes from development of Pennsylvania’s gas region.
May it long continue and may folks from other areas of the Keystone State, as well as other states, recognize just what natural gas development does for an economy, during good times, as well as bad. God Bless the gas industry!