September 10, 2018

 

Governor Tom Wolf

508 Main Capitol Building

Harrisburg, PA 17120

 

Dear Governor Wolf,

 

We the undersigned organizations and individuals urge you to consider the irrefutable economic case for saving Pennsylvania’s sustainable tourism future from the fracking industry.

 

Pennsylvania made a great mistake ten years ago and we now have the evidence to understand it. We could have chosen to protect our large and growing tourism industry, which was producing significant job growth, state and local taxes, and economic development. Instead, the state favored the gas industry, famous for boom and bust cycles, requiring few employees, skilled in tax avoidance, and with a deplorable history of environmental degradation.  

 

We have to remember that in 2008 the gas industry was hailed as “a game changer,” “the goose that lays the golden egg,” “a generational employment asset.”  We were told we were in for a bonanza of jobs and taxes that would stretch for forty years. It was a gold rush, and the gas industry fed the frenzy by spreading money around and commissioning academics to write papers that made wildly inflated claims.

 

The Pennsylvania Wilds and our beautiful countryside are within a few hours’ drive of 50 million urban and suburban residents who often need a respite from their crowded lives. These lands are the economically sustainable future of Pennsylvania. But who will come to visit an industrialized landscape of well pads, pipelines, access roads, and compressor stations? Who wants a getaway experience ruined by truck traffic, noxious fumes, noise and light pollution?

 

The Commonwealth has already made a substantial investment in the PA Wilds, which contain 26 state parks and two million acres of woodland, much of it state and federally owned. The term PA Wilds dates to 2003, when the Rendell administration branded the area and began to market it as a tourist destination. This effort was immediately successful, bringing a marked increase in visitors and subsequent growth in the depressed rural economy.  

 

"Significantly for local communities, this tourism-fueled increase in activity has led to gains in employment and earnings. Particularly high growth rates from 2003 to 2005 coincided with the implementation of the Pennsylvania Wilds initiative, suggesting that initiative’s positive contribution to tourism employment.” Pennsylvania Wilds Initiative Program Evaluation (2010), Pa Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  

 

When the gas industry arrived, the state's tourism marketing efforts greatly diminished. The gas industry promised a golden future of jobs, taxes, and economic development. However, it has delivered only a small fraction of the benefits that the tourist industry already provides.

 

In January of 2007, just as the Marcellus industry started to ramp up, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reported 20,700 jobs in Pennsylvania's Mining and Logging sector which includes gas and oil drilling. By January of 2015, a gain of 18,300 jobs was reported, all of which can likely be attributed to the Marcellus industry. Today the Mining and Logging jobs have fallen back to 28,800, or just 8000 more than in 2007. 

 

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Leisure and Hospitality sector currently has nearly 580,000 jobs with a job growth of 75,000 over the last eight years since the recession. Currently, for every job in the Marcellus Industry there are over 72 jobs in Leisure and Hospitality. The numbers speak for themselves: 580,000 verses 8000 jobs.   

 

Pennsylvania has commissioned its own economic studies on tourism, the latest dating to 2015. Its statistics, being more tightly focused on travel, are slightly lower than the federal figures on Leisure and Hospitality.

The Economic Impact of Travel in Pennsylvania Tourism Satellite Account Calendar Year 2015                      

 

Within the PA Wilds, the travel industry produced 11.2% of total labor income in 2015. That year, travelers spent $1.7 billion in the Wilds, which directly supported 12,632 jobs that provided $329 million in wages. The PA Wilds travel industry paid $89.9 million in state and local taxes and $78.7 million in federal taxes.

 

On the state level, travelers were responsible for close to $4.4 billion in Pennsylvania state and local tax revenues and an additional $4.5 billion in federal taxes in 2015. That far out-shines the impact-fee revenue from gas drilling. Below is a statement from the Marcellus Shale Coalition's website highlighting impact fees paid.

“$1.5 Billion and Counting: Since 2012, Pennsylvania’s natural gas impact tax has generated $1.5 billion (and counting) in new revenue. These revenues … total approximately $200 million annually....”

 

Let’s spell it out: the $4.4 billion tax revenue realized from the tourist industry in 2015 equaled 22 times the gas industry's average annual impact fees of $200 million. The number of PA jobs directly supported by travel and tourism reached a new record high of nearly 310,900 jobs in 2015 compared to the gas industry's current 7,000 direct jobs.

 

Nevertheless, President David Spigelmyer of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, in an op-ed in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, wrote, "According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study, natural gas development supports more than 320,000 jobs and contributes $45 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy."  

 

Mr. Spigelmyer claimed that the study was reporting exclusively on natural gas development. That was not true, as statistics in the report included both gas and petroleum as well as all ancillary business and services such as propane, fuel oil, and gasoline truck drivers and a myriad of other petroleum-related occupations.  Jobs in other industries deemed to be “supported” by petroleum and gas activities made up two-thirds of the 320,000 gross reported number.

 

Mr. Spigelmyer is trying to obscure the small job numbers and small economic impact of the fracking industry. He is following the American Petroleum Institute's strategy of commissioning and citing highly inflated economic studies designed to bully the Commonwealth into giving concessions on taxes, environmental protections, and access to public lands. The fracking industry also needs the hype since it is fueled by investor money, a situation which has grown increasingly tenuous.

 

In March of 2017, in an article entitled “American Shale Firms Don’t Give a Frack About Financial Returns”, The Economist took shale fracking to task for its unstable finances and inability to turn a profit.

 

“Shale firms are on an unparalleled money-losing streak. About $11 billion was torched in the last quarter, as capital expenditures exceeded cash flows. The cash-burn rate may well rise again this year…”  

 

The 5th edition of a Compendium on the impacts of gas drilling published in March of 2018 had this to say about the economics of hydraulic fracturing,

 

“ …in 2017, a modest recovery in prices brought renewed industry enthusiasm for fracking. However, because of the rapid depletion of individual shale wells and the falling output of major shale basins, including the Bakken and the Marcellus, operators must reinvest profits to drill new wells at an increasingly rapid pace just to maintain the same level of extraction…” 

 

It is difficult to understand the strategy of allowing a small, economically unstable, outside industry to ruin the future of our much larger domestic travel industry. Even if a severance tax is imposed, it would be a fraction of the taxes derived from visitors. If tourism in the rural areas of the state is promoted vigorously, the new tax revenues generated would render the gas industry irrelevant.  It does come down to a choice between the two, though, because we can't expect vacationers to visit a ruined, industrialized landscape.

 

In conclusion, Governor Wolf, we implore you to examine the irrefutable facts. There is only one viable economic decision to be made, one which benefits both the present-day economy and generations of Pennsylvanians to come.

 

Respectfully,

The Better Path Coalition, on behalf of the thirty undersigned organizations and the more than 2500 signers of our petitions.

Robert Cross

President

Responsible Drilling Alliance

Adrienne Taffoni Morgado

Board Member

350.org BucksCounty

Thaddeus Popovich

Co-Founder

Allegheny County Clean Air Now

Phillip Stober

President

Bare Foot Organics

Celia M Janosik

Treasurer

Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community

Karen Feridun

Founder

Berks Gas Truth

Rebecca Roter

Chairperson

Breathe Easy Susquehanna County

Arianne Elinich

Director

Bucks County CCAP

David Meiser

Co-founder

Bucks County Environmental Action

Sharon Furlong

Spokesperson

Bucks County Sierra Club

Penn Garvin

Co-convener

Climate Reality Project, Susquehanna Valley Chapter

Pamela Bishop

Principal

Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County

Barbara Arrindell

Director

Damascus Citizens for Sustainability

Tracy Carluccio

Deputy Director

Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Susan Norris

Founder

Gas Truth of Central Pennsylvania

Ann Buki

Member

Interfaith Action Community

Tim Spiese

Board president

Lancaster Against Pipelines

Ann Pinca

President

Lebanon Pipeline Awareness

Jon Bogle

Founding Member

Lycoming County Tourism Coalition

Michael Bagdes-Canning

Planning Group Member

Marcellus Outreach Butler

Max Riben

Health Coach

Moving Toward Healthier

Craig Stevens

Founder

Patriots From The Oil & Gas Shales

Tammy Murphy

Medical Advocacy Director

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Philadelphia

Barbara Jarmoska

President

Project CoffeeHouse

Iris Marie Bloom

Executive Director

Protecting Our Waters

Laurie Barr

Co-founder

Save Our Streams PA

Gayla Jo Yentzer

Founding Member

Save the Allegeny

Douglas Orbaker

Vice President

Ssuquehanna Valley Climate Action Network

Elisa Haransky-Beck

Founding Member

Sustainable Monroeville

Chris Digiulio

Co-founder

Upper Uwchlan Residents for Safety

MoveOn Petition Signers

Change.Org Petition Signers

Paper Petition Signers

Questions? Contact us at betterpathpa@gmail.com    

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon