Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Salena Zito: Town Saved by Fracking Fears Biden Will Kill Its Prosperity

Thirty years ago, Jason Capps was a young man with ambition, but when he looked around this town near Pittsburgh, where he grew up, all he saw were opportunities slipping away. The coal mines where his father worked were dying; the glass, steel and manufacturing industries were on their last legs.

        In 1987, when Capps graduated from high school, the unemployment rate was at a staggering 12%.

        "My ability to carve out a future here was limited at best, impossible at worst," he said. "So I left."

        Capps, 51, became a chef and traveled the country honing his skills. But then an unexpected rebirth happened here in Western Pennsylvania with the discovery of the Marcellus Shale, an ancient rock bed that offers an abundant source of natural gas.

        Eventually, Capps moved back to his hometown and, in 2006, he founded Bella Sera -- a successful event space resembling a grand Tuscan villa -- which he still owns and operates. 

        "There was this amazing trickle effect, this positive economic evolution that I saw happening in a place where nothing ever happened," he said. 

        For decades, geologists knew Devonian black shale existed in this region, but few thought it would be a major source of natural gas, mainly because the supply was thought to be too low. 

        That all changed in 2003 when energy company Range Resources experimented with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing -- a new technique commonly called "fracking" -- which flushes large volumes of high-pressure water, sand and chemicals into the ground, forcing trapped gas to escape into a well. 

        In 2004, the first commercially viable well was drilled, attracting multiple oil and gas producers and suppliers to the region. The town's Southpointe industrial park has since grown to include a breathtaking campus of homes, a championship golf course designed by Arthur Hills, and an executive business park where multiple Fortune 500 companies are based. 

        "In 2008 is when it really started to turn up," said Jeff Kotula, president of the county Chamber of Commerce. "Over 20,000 people work here every day, thousands also live, golf or stay at the hotels." 

        Like the men and women who built coal and steel and glass in this region 100 years ago, Kotula and Capps have prospered because of the natural resources under their feet. But unlike their forebears, they now worry that the politics of environmental justice will kill their region's newfound prosperity. 

        Climate justice activists say fracking contributes to climate change. Two of the most vocal anti-fracking members of Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, introduced companion bills last year to end the practice nationwide. Ocasio-Cortez said in her release: "The science is clear: fracking is a leading contributor to our climate emergency. It is destroying our land. It is destroying our water and it is wreaking havoc on our communities' health." 

        In January, newly sworn-in President Joe Biden signed several executive orders that banned or halted fracking on federal lands. With the stroke of a pen, people from Louisiana to South Dakota to New Mexico saw their livelihoods canceled. While he has so far held his powder on the prohibition of fracking on nonfederal lands (and the practice still goes on in Canonsburg), Biden's statements that the climate crisis will be at the center of his policy-making has locals and business owners worried. 

        Rodney Wilson, who is vice president of business development at energy company CNX, dismisses critics' claims on fracking and argues that it has helped the environment because natural gas is a clean-burning fossil fuel that reduces our reliance on coal for electricity. 

        "The statistics speak pretty clearly. If you look at Pennsylvania, in the past 12 years that natural gas was on the grid," and grew to comprise more than one-third of the electricity supply, "CO2 intensity has been reduced by 39% in the state," he said. 

        An American Petroleum Institute study shows the oil and gas industry contributes $34.7 billion to Pennsylvania's economy, with more than 1,347 businesses spread across the entire state as part of the larger supply chain. 

Pennsylvania would lose as many as 600,000 jobs if fracking is banned -- and the state GDP would take a $261 billion hit, according to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

        Sitting in his Southpointe office, CNX CEO Nick Deiuliis is dressed more like a dad ready to take his kid to soccer practice rather than a Fortune 500 exec. 

        Deiuliis, 52, calls what happened here nothing short of a miracle. He is worried that climate justice forces will undo all this success -- and hurt not just welders, tradesmen and pipefitters but also the hospitality industry, school districts and community centers that have soared because of the region's increased tax base. 

        "As exciting as the past 15 years have been for the region, you get very concerned about what the future holds for Canonsburg and for Western Pennsylvania," said Deiuliis. 

        "Despite all these wonderful things that we're doing ... decision-makers and elites are basically working night and day to deny you ... your future. That is something that frankly should not be taken lightly," he said. 

        Deiuliis said he rarely engages in political battles. But he believes he must take a stand before a ban on fracking goes from a quip on the campaign trail to reality. 

        Deiuliis said he has "an ethical and moral responsibility as a business leader to speak up to defend the employees, to keep their families going with a high quality of life, to help the region that I am from and that we operate within." 

        "To not do that, it's a moral failing," said Deiuliis. "We cannot allow the hammer to drop here again." 

        Salena Zito is a CNN political analyst, and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between. To find out more about Salena and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.



Anonymous said...

Fracking is not new. It is as old as petroleum production. They used to fracture the rock by throwing dynamite down the hole in the old days. Directional Drilling is what's new. I have no way of knowing how these environmental justice groups are funded, by I think it would be in the Saudis' best interest for them to be successful.

Anonymous said...

If Pennsylvania would lose 600,000 jobs, how many would Oklahoma or Texas lose, or Mississippi.

This won't go through. Instead, the government will do what it always does - offer tax incentives to favor another group.

Anonymous said...

Fear mongering aside, it's quite simple. Fracking is inefficient, creates waste, and it's costly. If oil prices are high, fracking can be profitable. The goal of all environmental policies is to move off fossil fuels, which should, in the near term begin to lower the cost of oil as demand lessens. That will phase fracking out before other fossil fuels.

Is it happening anytime soon, doubtful? I'm also pretty sure the Biden administration's goal isn't to ban fracking, but to make it an undesirable method of obtaining oil/energy.

It's the same with coal. Was coal banned? No. Has coal been on the decline? Yes. No administration killed coal mining towns. New technology killed coal mining towns.

Fracking will be the same.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest they seek out a battery plant. Electric Cars and the large supplies in the south and west will probably kill their oil production. Has nothing to do with Biden, so much as it does with cheaper supply and lower demand.

Anonymous said...

You'd probably be on the right track, 2:10.

Side note: the energy sector has got to be one of the largest employers in PA, wouldn't you think? It's crazy how they are generally such a battleground state and/or slightly blue.

Anonymous said...

It would be in Russia interest to shut down the oil industry in the U.S.
Joe Biden is so against America.

Anonymous said...

to think that the carbon life forms living on the crust of this rock can have the slightest effect on it is hubris.

Anonymous said...

Automation and AI are going to make everyone from doctors and lawyers, and even truck drivers, unemployed. We are in the final decade of late stage capitalism. We are going to either need UBI or a socialist revolution that bans AI and automation. The latter didn’t work well for the luddites when the industrial revolution made their work obsolete.

When it happens it will be so fast that it will catch the tech illiterates and low IQ off guard and leave them absolutely devastated.

Anonymous said...

2:53 PM
Would be a good idea if China hadn't cornered the rare earth minerals market. Would you support mining them in the US? We have a deposits here.

Better Than Ever said...

If you are scared at the prospect of oil being too expensive to obtain, just wait till we fuckup our abundant clean water supplies in north america by mixing oil & drilling chemicals into the aquifers.

Anonymous said...

But they can all just move to a different area and get green energy jobs ... according to our bumbler in chief.

Anonymous said...

6:02 Never fear, cisterns have been used for 100s of year, mankind will survive... humans made it when the dinosaurs didn't.

Anonymous said...

6:02 Never fear, cisterns have been used for 100s of year, mankind will survive... humans made it when the dinosaurs didn't.

You failed to provide the bible verses you used for your research into this topic.

Anonymous said...

Take an interesting trip to Arizona or Nevada and check out all the "boom towns" that came into existence and later became ghost towns when the mining industries dried up. It's nothing new. If your economy is based entirely on mineral mining or the like you might want to live in a mobile home and stop thinking you are somehow entitled to long term stability. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

@10:20 PM
I am not @8:10 an certainly not a young Earth creationist, but there is plenty of compelling evidence that some reptilian mega-fauna survived up until the Younger Dryas and lived, for a time, alongside Homo Sapiens.

Anonymous said...

Big difference in a silver mine playing out and the government banning your mine based on a manufactured hysteria.

Anonymous said...

10:32 You know of a mine that will never play out?

It's not the mining, it's the community dependence on mining. Or maybe we're talking about a different article. @9:09

Anonymous said...

No 11:05.
It is the same article and you are just a simple libtard. The coal mines aren’t playing out like a Nevada silver nine. The Biden Admin is actively working go kill another American industry based on false leftist religious hysteria. That religion being anthropogenic global warming.

Anonymous said...

12:10 The first paragraph of the article says, "The coal mines where his father worked were dying..."

Please read the article regarding the fragility of prosperity based solely on mining. Read.

Simple libtard. (But I do read)

Thomas Gentry said...

@8:10 p.m.
I get it. A cistern(rainwater) as opposed to a well(aquifer).

Anonymous said...

@ 2:48. The statement you posted is so far from the truth it’s comical. Fracking creates waste? Please explain such a careless statement! Inefficient? Man you are on a roll, the truth is fracking is the farthest thing away from inefficient. There is nothing worse than a person like you that makes outrageous statements about a topic that you clearly are not well versed in. Someone probably read the trash you wrote and found it to be truthful not knowing better. Shame on you/

Anonymous said...

You frackers don't care to see 2 feet in front of your face.
Sometimes, things have to suffer in the short run to move forward with the big picture, which in this case is the future of this earth. I know that's beyond your comprehension or you just don't care since your pockets will be lined while you enjoy the rest of your life, and you'll be dead by the time the serious damage to the earth emerges. Please consider future generations.

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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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