The rhetoric supporting a ban on hydraulic fracturing is becoming bolder by the day. I don’t get it. There is sound scientific data saying it is safe and efficient. Banning fracking is short-sighted and foolish.

Such a ban would have a dramatic impact on the economy of Pennsylvania, where manufacturing opportunities are emerging as a result of shale gas development. We are seeing new job opportunities and investment in a sector that’s important.

I watched in disbelief as a cadre of candidates debated an all-out prohibition of hydraulic fracturing. These manufacturing facilities and the family-sustaining jobs they bring can revitalize the economy and resurrect the ghosts of our industrial past.

The revitalization of our towns along the Monongahela River in the balance of this political debate. This hard-line stance is very frustrating. Don’t they see us here?

Thanks to shale gas development, Pennsylvania has become the second-most vital natural gas state. The Keystone State produces 20 percent of all U.S. gas, behind only Texas, and has become a shale-based hub for petrochemicals and plastics. Excuse me, but don’t you see us?

We are drilling, putting pipe in the ground AND protecting our environment. Did you see the announcement last week of the largest solar facility in the region to be constructed partly in Greene County? This nearly $80 million investment is proof that the combination of natural gas and renewables can transform an economy.

The politics of fracking are volatile. I have worked in the consulting engineering industry in the municipal public sector for 35 years and have witnessed firsthand the benefits realized by communities in Greene and Washington counties. Many of my client communities have been able to complete projects that have enhanced the quality of life for residents because of the natural gas industry. These projects have allowed us to upgrade critical local infrastructure such as roads, and water and sewer pipelines.

I also have served as a practice leader for my firm focused in the oil and gas industry. In this capacity, I did research. I investigated the science of hydraulic fracturing, partly because I wanted to understand this industry and partly because I have eight grandchildren living in the middle of the Marcellus Shale play. Watching this debate, it became obvious that those talking heads did not research the science behind it.

I am going to stand with our unions and the men, women and children – my neighbors – who depend on oil and gas for jobs. I am going to advocate for a brighter future for every child in our region. My grandfather worked in the tube mill at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, where they manufactured the pipe used in drilling. He did this every day to fight for my well-being. Now it’s my turn to fight for others.

I will continue to support economic development in Greene and Washington counties, do my part to attract business to the region. Shale gas development is attracting business, from large manufacturing operations and support services bringing hundreds of family-sustaining jobs, to small “mom and pop” businesses growing out of our local entrepreneurial community.

I will always be an advocate for our region, an outspoken supporter of shale gas development, and an avid protector of our natural resources. I am going to walk confidently toward our future with our exploration and production, midstream and downstream partners across the natural gas supply chain. I will be out front recruiting manufacturers to bring their operations, and their jobs, here.

I will work with our educators and the building trades to develop training and apprenticeship programs to prepare our students to qualify for those jobs. While I am doing these things, I will be working to ensure my grandchildren have clean air to breathe and water to drink.

Working on economic development projects, including a successful business attraction in Greene County, has given me a front-row perspective of how a region benefits when industry and government collaborate to accomplish a common goal.

Jamie Protin is founder and principal of The Protin Group in Belle Vernon.

To submit business-related columns, email Rick Shrum at rshrum@observer-reporter.com.

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