Pennsylvania’s Gas Region Is Still Open for Business, Thank You!

Tom Shepstone
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.

Pennsylvania's gas industry

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:

Pennsylvania's gas region 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!

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7 thoughts on “Pennsylvania’s Gas Region Is Still Open for Business, Thank You!

  1. Over 1800 jobs well paying jobs in only four major sectors, especially in a small rural county sounds pretty good when you compare it to some of Central New York’s semi-urbanized counties like Onondaga which includes the City of Syracuse. Right now Syracuse University is shut down and it happens to be the largest employer in the county. Sure, we have three significantly large hospitals but we also have a city that has half of its property tax exempt and a greater need for social services. We have some manufactures lying around like a bunch of strewn toys with little to look forward to as our “Bloviator-in Chief” bleeds the state dry with multi Billion Dollar schemes which notoriously failed. What was once a bustling city 60 years ago is pretty much a “ghost town” even with billions of tax payer monies pumped into an urban core for gentrified housing for sustaining cultural events and food establishments, that means of revenue is gone because of the Wuhan virus. Some construction is ongoing but once the money runs and/or the project is completed, New York has yet to have a budget in place by April 1 of this year. We have a 6.1 Billion dollar budget deficit in Medicaid alone. This does not even count the other multi Billion dollar schemes that the taxpayer is still on the hook for. Most if not all the money from the federal government to help get the nation as a whole running again will be distributed outside of the NYC Metro area. In fact, it never really does even when we don’t experience a pandemic.
    While gas extraction in Onondaga County (via the Utica Shale formation) may not be practical at this time, our neighboring counties to the South and West could as a region benefit from it.
    The point is that it doesn’t take much for an urbanized economy to be destroyed, even when it is the cultural center of the region.
    As I pointed out about 25 years ago to well renowned urban expert, Richard Florida who touted the wonderous benefits of the “Creative Class” and how they could rescue cities like Syracuse and Scranton, that while it is nice for these folks to help inject life into a once vibrant area, if things turned bad, they like Rats, are the first to leave a sinking ship with their own and taxpayer monies. Prof. Florida stood there dumbfounded in front of the audience at the seminar and tried to deflect with little success. Some others had the foresight to question him further while the political hacks and other “culture vultures” started to seethe with anger in the background. If I embarrassed this charlatan, then so be it. However he is not the only one, Elon Musk and his ilk are cut from the same cloth.
    The gas industry by itself cannot save Central New York or the Southern Tier and nobody with an ounce of common sense expects it to. However, if even a virus such as this can put the final nail in New York’s economic coffin due to piss poor “leadership” and schemes to nowhere, then it deserves to die a miserable and painful death.

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