Gov. talks energy, jobs

MONTGOMERY – As Gov. Tom Corbett presented the state’s 2014 energy plan “Energy = Jobs” at Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Earth Science Center Tuesday afternoon, he emphasized the key role natural gas plays in creating jobs.

He called this a “new era, a prosperous era of endless possibilities of energy in this state,” noting “natural gas is the cornerstone of our economic future,” as this is the second largest energy field in the world.

The plan is the state’s portfolio of resources to accomplish three key objectives:

Put the state on sound fiscal ground,

Work to make a job available for every resident,

Ensure trained and educated residents are available for every job.

Corbett explained later that the plan catalogs what energy sources are available in the state and concurrently looks to develop the workforce.

He wants to get the data to investment organizations across the state to encourage job retainment and growth.

“This is a resource document so when we try to sell Pennsylvania to investors, we can show what we have here,” Corbett said.

That idea already is in motion at Penn College’s natural gas training facility at the Energy Technology Education Center where natural gas drilling impact dollars fund tuition-free training ($1,000 per student) to provide the basic skills and certifications required for entry-level employment in the oil and natural gas industry.

The free training is key for many volunteer firefighters who respond to drilling-related incidents, said Tracy Brundage, college assistant vice president for workforce and economic development.

Corbett toured the outdoor area where students learn hazardous material training, how to plug a leaking tank or respond to well-head fires. The campus has a training drilling rig, one of three in the country, Brundage said.

Labor and Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway called the college’s training an “innovative approach” to workforce development.

Adaptability now is the name of the game for potential employees in the natural gas industry, Corbett said, as “jobs and skills are changing.”

Corbett noted with the recent state Supreme Court decision ruling that restores local municipalities’ right to control natural gas drilling activities, that won’t affect “much of what’s going on” with drilling, although he said the ruling could make the state’s competitive advantage more difficult.

To advance the plan, Corbett proposes to advance energy independence by relying on coal, nuclear and natural gas energy; making cutting-edge technology commonplace; encouraging communities to partner with businesses to create new jobs; support electric and natural gas competitiveness through market-based approaches; and promote business expansion.

Further, the plan reinforces four core ideas, Corbett said. First, to encourage the development of domestic energy, and these resources will lead to lower costs and more jobs, he said.

Second, to responsibly embrace the environment. “It’s not an either-or choice between energy or the environment,” Corbett said, noting fracking wastewater can be taken care of in a more environmentally friendly fashion.

Third, to embrace free markets. “We need to grow robust markets for energy supplies,” he said.

Finally, energy independence leads to national security. “We can create family-sustaining jobs while freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil,” Corbett said.