Gas industry impact meeting draws some curious answers

The Lycoming County Planning and Community Development Department took input from community leaders last week on the impact of the Marcellus Shale gas drilling industry in the area. We found the responses curious, to say the least.

Some of the leaders pointed to the increased truck traffic and infrastructure pressures that come with the gas industry to be something of a negative. That’s to be expected.

Another leader said that the industry hasn’t been financially successful for his community.

While we concede these people are in a position to know the impact of the industry in their communities, to say there isn’t a positive financial result from the industry seems to be an answer with some missing pieces.

Frankly, given the country and state’s tough economic circumstances of the past five years, we don’t want to know what the situation would be like in our region without the industry.

The industry has directly created employment in its own companies and indirectly created new and expanding businesses and employment in related industries. That’s undeniable.

With employment comes taxable income and spending impacting the retail and service industries of the region. With employment comes people moving to the area and existing residents making housing decisions that churn more economy.

The gas impact fee revenue to this area is among the most in the state, most recently including $1.3 million for local housing projects from the Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement program funded by the fees. Ultimately, the gas drilling will create energy at a lower cost that is more easily accessible. That’s already happened in some cases.

There are plans for a new airport terminal that is desperately needed in the region. Those plans probably would not be happening without the presence of the gas industry. There have been countless office and lodging developments that have arisen in the past five years that we are certain were directly attributable to the gas industry.

It’s easy to get caught up in the challenges posed by the industry. But people need to take a step back and try to imagine what the local economy would have looked like over the past five years without the presence of the gas drilling industry.

It’s not a pretty picture.