As the upcoming election approaches, an important topic, especially for Western Pennsylvania, has been fracking. On September 22, SHALE INSIGHT 2016 was held in Pittsburgh, and provided participants a front-row seat for the most important discussions on shale development, featuring some of the most prominent industry and government leaders. Attendees networked with the most influential industry executives and innovative thought leaders through two days of technical and public affairs insight sessions, major keynote addresses, and a dynamic exhibit hall featuring all the major shale players.
Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, a staunch proponent of shale drilling and speaker at the Conference, said that it brought over 1,000 people to our region and was a big boost to tourism. “It provides the opportunity to bring key players, government officials, and stakeholders together to discuss things like best practices in the industry, all the while impacting local economy in a positive way.”
We have over 41,000 direct jobs from the energy industry right here in Western Pennsylvania, and Mr. Fitzgerald believes the energy sector will remain resilient and on a path of success, despite unforeseen circumstances beause energy is a cyclical business. At times the prices and demand are high, and other times the surplus and demand are low. Much like the steel production mills had ups and downs, we have to anticipate them with fossil fuels as well.
Another successful component to the local energy industry, according to Mr. Fitzgerald, is the $6-7 billion Shell ethane cracker plant that is being built in Beaver County. It is a petrochemical complex on the site of the former Horsehead zinc smelter in Potter and Center townships. The site will house the cracker; three units that will convert ethylene into polyethylene pellets; a natural gas-fired power plant; a loading dock; and a wastewater plant. The new cracker plant is going to provide over 600 jobs. Besides jobs, there are downstream opportunities for local manufacturing, outside of the Gulf of Mexico, where the majority of other cracker plants are located (meaning no travel/freight costs). It is close to gas feedstocks, and is within a 700-mile radius of more than 70% of North American polyethylene customers.
Mr. Fitzgerald also pointed out that at the Pittsburgh International Airport, US Airways had a hub that they stopped using about a decade ago due to airlines merging, fuel prices rising, and the recession hitting. The airport has leased the 9,000 acre site to Consol Energy to extract gas. “Over the next 20 years, the county hopes to make $500 million from gas royalties,” said Mr. Fitzgerald.
- Donald Trump supports rescinding the Climate Action Plan and Waters of the U.S. rule, renewing the Keystone XL Pipeline project, canceling the Paris Climate Agreement, and reforming the regulatory environment. Trump claims global warming is a “hoax.”
- Supports fracking but thinks state/local governments should be able to ban the process...in 2012 he was quoted as saying “Fracking will lead to American energy independence. With price of natural gas continuing to drop, we can be at a tremendous advantage.”
- Wants to revoke existing policies that place restrictions on new technologies for drilling.
- Does not believe in climate change, believes extreme weather patterns that scientists attribute to man-made actions are "weather."
- Hillary Clinton has pledged to power at least half of the nation's energy needs with renewable sources by 2030 and supports investment in clean renewable energy over fracking. She supports the Paris Agreement to combat climate change and opposes the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic.
- Wants to reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.
- Supports giving localities the final say in fracking, but wants to add regulations requiring more disclosure and that she would oppose fracking when there is evidence of water contamination (does not support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. Does not support it unless we can require that anybody who fracks to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using.
Donald Trump provided the final comments at the Conference. In his speech, Mr. Trump outlined his energy policies. “I’m going to lift the restrictions on American energy and allow this wealth to pour into our communities including right here in the state of Pennsylvania. We will end the war on coal and on miners,” said Trump to attendees of the Conference.
He wrote in his 2011 book, Time to Get Tough, that the Marcellus Shale was “one of the largest mother lodes of natural gas” and should be used to buy “more time to innovate and develop newer, more efficient, cleaner, and cheaper forms of energy.”
He went on to say, “Billions of dollars in private infrastructure investment have been lost to the Obama-Clinton restriction agenda. We will streamline the permitting process for all energy infrastructure projects, including the billions of dollars in projects held up by President Obama – creating countless more jobs in the process.” Mr. Trump further outlined that he would roll back Obama’s climate change plans, promote oil and gas drilling on federal lands, and promote the construction of oil and gas pipelines. He then promised to lift environmental regulations, open federal lands to oil and gas production and ease permitting for oil pipelines.
He then stated that Hillary Clinton plans to add taxes and regulations, devastating the economy.
But Mr. Fitzgerald thinks that she has the most balanced and reasonable position. “She has the right approach to benefit Western Pennsylvania. This approach will call for protection of water supply, methane emission regulations, and will be most useful for our economy, providing more jobs and keeping us out of the vulnerable position of relying on foreign trade.”
Mrs. Clinton has stated, “For natural gas to play a role in the transition to a clean energy economy, it’s essential that the right safeguards are in place. States such as Colorado are already pointing the way toward how to do this effectively.” As President, Clinton will ensure natural gas production is safe and responsible in those communities that choose to pursue.
Mr. Fitzgerald believes that the oil and gas industry can work together with legislative leaders to positively affect the communities they serve by providing regulations that make sense. “Companies should be cognizant of environmental regulations at the forefront and companies that violate these regulations should be penalized,” said Mr. Fitzgerald. He also believes we need to have fair tax. An extraction tax would be charged to producers, or anyone with a working or royalty interest, in oil or gas operations, benefiting the local community.