By SEN. E. EUGENE YAW
Recently, a letter to the editor appeared in the Williamsport Sun Gazette. The caption was "What is in it for us?" The writer attempted to support his personal dislike of the gas industry by citing a supposed lack of jobs created in the industry and the lack of taxes paid. According to the writer, jobs have not been produced and only about $2 billion in taxes have been paid since 2006, which is only $250 million per year. Perhaps the writer's thought is that this money would have better been spent buying crude oil from the Middle East.
My first question would be to ask anyone to name any industry of the magnitude of the natural gas industry that has moved into Pennsylvania in the past decade? As a matter of fact, name an industry of this magnitude that has moved into Pennsylvania in the past 50 years?
According to the latest Pennsylvania Labor and Industry reports, over 241, 926 jobs are attributable to the gas industry. In that figure, 29,926 are direct employment jobs and 212,000 are indirect jobs. Just as educational institutions create indirect jobs beyond the teaching profession, such as bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers, the gas industry, like any other industry, creates indirect employment. Examples of local indirect jobs are railroaders, truck drivers, restaurants, hotels, mechanics, car dealers, laundry workers, and yes, college instructors. The average salary for direct employees is $84,400. All of these professions pay taxes here in Pennsylvania. Perhaps someone would like to check with the 400 employees at Halliburton's facility in Montgomery, Pennsylvania, about employment in the gas industry. Furthermore, there are five tax-paying hotels in the Williamsport area which were not here five years ago.
In my Senate district, the gas companies have been a moving force behind the construction of two new hospitals. They have contributed to colleges and, through Pennsylvania's Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, have made significant contributions to private schools throughout my district. Examples include: St. John Neumann Regional Academy, Epiphany Elementary School, St. Agnes Elementary School, Hillside Christian Academy, Faith Mountain Christian Academy and North Rome Christian School.
In addition to the taxes paid by employers and employees, the gas companies will have paid over $600 million in impact fees to the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) in the past three years. Of that amount, $120 million will have been returned to the counties and municipalities in my Senate district. Lycoming County and its municipalities will have received over $30 million in the last three years. No other law in history has returned so much to rural Pennsylvania. As the result of impact fee funds paid into the Pennsylvania Housing and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, along with impact fee money from the county, three projects serving low-income and the elderly have been undertaken in the City of Williamsport, specifically the Memorial Homes, Brodart Neighborhood Development and the Grove Street Commons.
For homeowners, the price of natural gas is less than one-half the price of other heating methods. This means that the homeowner who pays $4,000 annually for heating oil would pay less than $2,000 for gas. Any Pennsylvania resident, including every person in Lycoming County who uses natural gas, benefits from the low prices. In fact, anyone in Pennsylvania who uses natural gas for residential or commercial purposes benefits from the gas industry. By the way, approximately 40% of all electricity in Pennsylvania is generated by natural gas. So, not only do "Lycoming Countians" heat their homes and operate their businesses with natural gas, but every man, woman and child in the county benefits from the electricity produced by natural gas. To opine that there is little impact in the state or Lycoming County is to ignore reality.
Admittedly, a major problem in Pennsylvania, which I am working on, is the lack of infrastructure for delivery of natural gas. Approximately one-half of Pennsylvania households do not have access to natural gas through the distribution utilities under the jurisdiction of the PUC. My goal is to give more Pennsylvanians the opportunity to make a choice.
Ten years ago, Time magazine reported that the United States was running out of energy. With the advance of the natural gas industry, that is no longer the case. As a result of the supply of energy now available, there has been a renaissance of many industries. Ten years ago, we had over 70,000 conventional gas wells in Pennsylvania. Today, we have over 70,000 conventional wells and over 5,000 unconventional wells. We have gone from an energy importer to an energy exporter. With natural gas serving 2.5 million homes in Pennsylvania and 13,917 homes in Lycoming County at a price which is significantly lower than other energy and with natural gas creating an industry which has generated over a quarter million jobs, it is simply impossible to say Pennsylvania has "very little return". And, we have accomplished all of this without putting one soldier in harm's way.
Yaw, a Loyalsock Republican, represents the 23rd Senatorial District, which includes Lycoming and Tioga Counties.