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May 1, 2012

Lawrence Corvi: Marcellus Shale — a lot more good than bad

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence and Mercer county business leaders recently learned more about how Marcellus Shale development is impacting our area.

Most of the news seemed to be good, but those in attendance were reminded it’s still early in the game for one of the biggest stories — the announced building of a major multibillion-dollar petrochemical refinery in nearby Beaver County.

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley commented about the proposed refinery and made other points while addressing about 140 people at The Shenango Valley and Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.

Cawley said the petrochemical refinery — which will convert ethane from Marcellus Shale natural gas into other chemicals used for plastics, tires and antifreeze — is still not a done deal.

“We are in the first quarter” of the game with three to go, Cawley said. And while Pennsylvania is ahead of competitors Ohio and West Virginia for the company, a lot of work must be done to ensure the plant is built here.

The plant will require up to 10,000 construction workers and employ several hundred according to Shell, the proposed developer.

The location is just south of Lawrence County in Monaca. Lawrence County and the region will surely benefit with the plant going forward.

The American Chemistry Council said the new petrochemical plant could attract up to $16 billion in private investment. State leaders say the plant and related Marcellus Shale projects could lift all of western Pennsylvania, just as the steel industry did in the 1870s.

Cawley said Marcellus Shale development has benefited Pennsylvanians in many ways already. He made these points:

•The average Marcellus Shale job pays $77,000 well above average in Pennsylvania.

•State residents have saved $600,000,000 in utility bills with development of Marcellus Shale. Cawley implied natural gas rates have gone down, resulting in the savings.

•Shale developers paid the state $419,000,000 in taxes last year.

•The U.S. Steel works in the Mon Valley area is bustling these days because it is making pipe and related products for shale development.

It seems Marcellus Shale is making contributions to our well-being, even though some have been critical of the state’s lack of taxing shale development directly.

Recently, Harrisburg approved counties enacting a use tax that will further benefit revenue collections.

Let’s encourage state and local leaders to do good diligence, protect our beautiful environment here, and help make the plant a reality.

What we are seeing today is what happened to western Pennsylvania in the 1870s, when steel making expanded here.

Steel brought wealth, a lot of economic development and helped support many families. It also hurt our environment. We just stood in awe of blast furnaces making the sky glow red at night. This time we are much smarter.

We should see more of the positive from Marcellus and a lot less of the negative.

(Lawrence Corvi is publisher at the New Castle News.)

 

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