U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, along with Gov. Tom Corbett, have been lobbying for Shell to invest their petroleum chemistry plant, known as a “cracker” plant, in PA instead of Ohio or West Virginia. The plant could bring the “reindustrialization of Southwest Pennsylvania” says the Department of Community and Economic Development. Comparable plants in other states sustain, on average, 10,000 to 14,000 jobs, plus thousands of temporary construction jobs.
While the senators have cited the state’s advantages such as an extensive rail transportation network, the hostile anti-gas political climate certainly won’t be ignored by Shell. We’ve already seen Devon Energy, one of Fortune Magazine’s 100 Most Admirable Companies, state the company would not consider drilling in Pennsylvania because of the “political problems”.
Today, for example, protesters gathered at the Capitol to “kill” proposed drilling legislation that would enact an impact fee and more stringent regulations because it doesn’t go far enough. A pastor at the event wearing a “Where Would Jesus Frack” patch told listeners that Jesus wouldn’t frack anywhere.
When it comes to enacting a Marcellus fee and new drilling regulations, science, not emotions, needs to guide the rulemaking. A cursory review of the drilling regulations proposed in HB 1950 (the version passed by the PA House) and SB 1100 reveals the new rules are far from the industry handout protesters claim. Most of the setback requirements and bonding requirements are higher than neighboring states, ensuring communities and the environment are protected.
Will Shell overlook PA’s hostile drilling climate and decide to bring its cracker plant and thousands of jobs to the Keystone State? Only time will tell.