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Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai: Banning fracking would destroy Pennsylvania’s economy | Opinion

Democrats don’t seem to care how critical the fossil fuel industry is to job creation and growth.

Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai in the State Capitol. Turzai (R., Allegheny) says Democrats who oppose fracking don't understand the practice's importance to Pennsylvania's economy.
Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai in the State Capitol. Turzai (R., Allegheny) says Democrats who oppose fracking don't understand the practice's importance to Pennsylvania's economy.Read moreMATT ROURKE / Associated Press

An extremist policy advocated by many Democratic presidential candidates — banning fracking — would cripple Pennsylvania’s economy and leave hundreds of thousands of families destitute.

Even Lt. Gov. John Fetterman acknowledged to the New York Times that the Democratic Party’s embrace of a fracking ban would be devastating to our state. “In Pennsylvania, you’re talking hundreds of thousands of related jobs that would be — they would be unemployed overnight,” Fetterman admitted.

This destructive notion isn’t limited to far-left candidates such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, either. Although he has not committed to a fracking ban, even the putative “moderate” in the race, former Vice President Joe Biden, recently said “yes” when a voter asked about “stopping fracking,” as well as a national moratorium on pipeline construction.

Stunningly, the Democrats don’t seem to care how critical the fossil fuel industry is to Pennsylvania’s economy. One 2017 study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute, for instance, found that a whopping 322,600 jobs were supported by oil and natural gas statewide in 2015, providing nearly $23 billion in wages, and that the industry contributes more than $44 billion in economic activity.

Residential natural gas customer costs have fallen significantly over the past 10 years, for an estimated $1,200 annual savings per household, representing a total savings of about $3 billion per year for the more than 2.5 million Pennsylvania households that use natural gas for heating, largely thanks to increased natural gas production. Billions of dollars have been paid in royalties to landowners in our state.

» READ MORE: If fracking is banned, what happens to jobs in Western Pa.? | Opinion

Natural gas has allowed our state to excel in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well. Natural gas usage in power generation has driven down emissions of volatile organic compounds by 33%, according to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. Sulfur dioxide emissions are down 93% and nitrogen oxide levels have dropped by 80%. Overall greenhouse gas emissions in power generation are down nearly 40% since 2005.

Tens of thousands of well-paying, family-sustaining jobs have been provided by the shale boom, with billions of dollars in industrial investment to capitalize on the lower cost of energy and the manufacturing potential of natural gas. This year in Beaver County, there are over 6,500 skilled tradespersons working on the construction of the Shell ethane cracker plant. The Marcus Hook refinery in Delaware County is currently undergoing a $200 million expansion, estimated to create 1,200 jobs. We want to see those types of investments all over the state.

We recently passed legislation designed to encourage job and economic growth by taking advantage of Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas resources. HB 1100, prime sponsored by State Rep. Aaron Kaufer (R., Luzerne) and seconded by me, is structured similarly to the tax credit incentive that passed in 2013, which attracted Beaver County’s Shell plant. HB 1100 will similarly allow for the repurposing of abandoned manufacturing sites in other communities into petrochemical and natural gas-powered manufacturing facilities. The measure passed 39-11 in the Senate and 157-35 in the House with bipartisan support.

» READ MORE: Fracking has led to a ‘bust’ for Pennsylvania school district finances | Opinion

Pennsylvanians want to continue to grow our economy and recognize that the growth of the natural gas industry has contributed to our recovery from the recession — which doesn’t bode well for the Democrats in the coming months.

More importantly, voters throughout the country remain optimistic about the strong and growing economy under President Donald Trump, making it that much harder for Democrats to sell their contrasting vision to the American people.

In fact, a recent national poll from Fox News found that 55% of Americans currently hold a positive view of the U.S. economy — the highest level of economic confidence since 2001. Moreover, a 42% plurality of those who believe the economy is in “excellent” or “good” shape also gives President Trump and the Republican Party credit for the ongoing economic revival.

The people of Pennsylvania have an important decision to make in the upcoming election. The Democratic candidates are making the choice incredibly easy: We can either extend the ongoing era of prosperity for another four years or vote for a political party that will sacrifice hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania workers.

Mike Turzai is the speaker of the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania.