Governor Corbett kicked off the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s annual Philadelphia conference by thanking the natural gas drilling industry, castigating its opponents, and tying the shale drilling boom to the state’s energy history.
Corbett began his Thursday morning speech – the first keynote speech of the two-day Shale Gas Insight Conference – by praising drillers. “Thank you for what you are doing,” he told the industry gathering, crediting gas extraction with creating thousands of direct or indirect jobs.
Corbett also touted the ethane processing plant Shell is considering building in Beaver County. Pennsylvania has provided multiple tax breaks to the project, including a production tax credit that could turn out to be the largest tax break in state history.
Corbett cited the 10,000 production jobs the plant would create, but notably backed away from the administration’s previous blanket claim that a cracker would lead to 20,000 permanent jobs. As StateImpact Pennsylvania and other outlets have reported, the plant itself would only generate about 500 jobs. The rest, as Corbett told the conference, would come from the off-shoot operations he hopes would spring up alongside the ethane cracker. “If we used our imaginations and chose to partner with this industry, the wet gas harvested in Pennsylvania will be processed in Pennsylvania,” Corbett said. “The downstream jobs will be created here, and not in some other state or some other country.”
The governor also lashed out at drilling opponents, calling them “unreasoning.” He said environmentalists agree “that we can land a rover on Mars, but that can’t bring themselves to think that we can safely drill a mile into our own soil. After all the predictions of disaster and the fearful warnings of people with no understanding of the industry, Pennsylvania is reaping a bounty.”
For a look at some of the problems drilling has led to, check out StateImpact Pennsylvania’s methane migration coverage.
Titusville got a mention, too. Corbett tied the natural gas boom to Pennsylvania’s broader energy history, addressing the fact the commonwealth hosted the world’s first oil boom. He talked about Edwin Drake’s first oil well – a subject StateImpact Pennsylvania covered earlier this week – but also addressed the substantial bust that came along with the first energy boom. Corbett talked about Pithole, the one-time boomtown that’s now merely a clearing in the forest near Titusville. “It had seven hotels. It had shops, homes, its own newspaper, and the third-busiest post office in the state, after Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” said Corbett. “And just as suddenly as it appeared, the town was gone.”
“There are a few stones, overgrown foundations, and nothing else if you go there today. Nobody planned around that amazing growth. Everybody lived in the moment, but never thought about the next step.”
The implication: the energy infrastructure Corbett is pushing for through tax breaks and state-funded grants will transform a temporary boom into a permanent energy economy.