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By Dave Spigelmyer
Ask any elected state official, regardless of party affiliation, what a top issue facing the Commonwealth is and they ll likely cite transportation funding -- or a lack thereof. It s a critical issue that has been put off for decades with a patchwork of temporary solutions offered along the way.A crew works on a gas drilling rig at a well site for shale based natural gas in Zelienople, Pa.AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, 2012
Today, however, meaningful and bipartisan efforts are advancing to provide much-needed, long-term solutions aimed at enhancing Pennsylvania s aging infrastructure and positioning us to compete economically in the global marketplace.
Solutions of course come in many forms. In fact, over the past several years as shale gas development has increased across our region, our industry has invested -- conservatively -- more than 0 million in road and infrastructure improvements.
By any measure, these private capital investments -- which are helping to create local jobs and economic activity -- are significant. For context, to repave a one-mile stretch of a two lane road -- which is representative of many of the roads our industry has improved over the years -- costs approximately 0,000 0,000.
Oil and natural gas producers are committed to ensuring the roads our industry utilizes are effectively maintained and remain safe for all, while taking responsibility for any impacts associated with our operations.
And these investments represent a shared goal safety for the communities where we operate and the necessary infrastructure to conduct our operations.
These infrastructure investment dollars by our industry are in addition to the nearly .8 billion in state and local taxes generated by shale development and the more than 0 million in impact fees distributed over the past two years to state, county and local government. Road improvements projects are a primary use of impact fee dollars.
To be clear, these capital-intensive improvement projects go well-beyond fresh asphalt and seasonal pothole repairs -- they re enabling Pennsylvania-based construction firms to hire more workers and invest in new equipment (and generate even more tax revenue).
This is just one of the countless examples of safe shale development cascading positively across our economy, despite continued national economic headwinds.
Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. and Hawbaker Engineering, both based in Centre County, have hired 300 employees to support a growing business related to responsible shale development. Hawbaker has opened new offices, invested in plants and equipment and was able to keep folks employed a time when the economy and infrastructure investments slowed to a near halt.
PJ Dick and Lindy Paving, family-owned businesses based in Pittsburgh, have also seen an uptick in business related to natural gas development.
From building new facilities and roads, to road maintenance and repair work, the company s director of Marcellus operations stated that this opportunity, in our own backyard, at this time in our economy, has been a real gift.
These are just a few of the many Pennsylvania success stories tied to the natural gas industry s infrastructure investments.
As the general assembly considers transportation funding legislation and, potentially, the implementation of new taxes on an industry that is providing hope and opportunity to areas of the Commonwealth that have struggled for decades, it should not be lost on anyone that these investments -- and the multiplier effect made possible by shale development -- would not have been fully realized without a climate that encourages investment.
As the Associated Press reported in 2011, A state transportation official says the natural gas industry and the state are working closer together this year to make sure Pennsylvania roads used by heavy vehicles stay in good shape or get fixed quickly. This is a commitment our industry continues to make good on -- and one of which we are certainly proud.
Dave Spigelmyer is president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition, a natural gas trade association. Learn more at www.marcelluscoalition.org.
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