Pennsylvania’s natural gas impact fee is our commonwealth’s tax on natural gas development.

Yes, it is a tax, and in 2018, this fee/tax generated $252 million and directly benefited all 67 counties. That translates to community parks, trails and playgrounds our residents are able to enjoy. And don’t forget the roads and bridges we have constructed, repaired and rehabilitated utilizing these funds.

If your house catches on fire or you have a health emergency, you could ask a volunteer first responder if the emergency services they provide would be available without these funds. Investing in partnerships with companies that are here developing this resource, as well as companies that will move here to take advantage of the proximity to our brownfield and greenfield development sites, makes good business sense.

You see accountability in partnership. We want our government to be accountable for working with industry partners to ensure that our precious natural resources are not only protected, but enhanced. We want our industry partners to work with our government to build a diverse and resilient economy for our children and grandchildren.

We are on a global stage. The world is watching to see how we respond to this generational opportunity. The Marcellus and Utica shale plays, and the downstream manufacturing industries they will spawn, will sustain our region for more than 100 years.

Col. Steve Austin, of the 1970s television series “The $6 Million Man,” comes to mind when we talk about rebuilding our great region. “We can rebuild him, we have the technology.”

We have the technology to protect our precious air and water. We can continue to clean our rivers while increasing the commercial tonnage they support. We can protect our green spaces. We can repurpose our long-dormant brownfields, relics from a long-ago generational opportunity not unlike the one on our doorstep.

Let’s look into the not-to-distant future, to our energy future. What will we be in, say, in 25 years? (If you think 25 years is distant, you are much younger than I am. It is a blink of an eye. Hence, the sense of urgency.)

Yes, I am going to mention shale gas here. If shale gas appears to play an important role in my vision of our future, it’s because Pennsylvania has large quantities of it, and that is pushing the state into a position of global importance.

If our legislators work together to develop a policy that encourages shale gas usage to expand industry and bring in more manufacturing, the diverse, resilient and sustainable economy we crave will become a reality. Pennsylvania will become a global powerhouse, flush with tax revenue from a healthy economy.

Think of where we can go from there. The possibilities are limitless. We must keep this precious resource here by encouraging industrial and petrochemical development, rather than export it to other regions.

This is not our first energy rodeo, my friends. Pennsylvania has been a leader in extractive energy industries. We have been mining coal since the mid-1700s, and our nation’s first oil well was drilled here in 1859. The commonwealth is the second-largest producer of natural gas and the third-largest producer of coal in the nation. We can develop these resources and still protect the farmland in Greene and Washington counties. We can benefit without selling our proverbial souls.

In Greene and Washington counties, we will likely always be known for coal, manufacturing and steel. While steel production has slowed, coal and natural gas share the spotlight in the future energy story of these counties. The stage is being set for future growth through downstream economic opportunities and job creation, not only in our region, but across the commonwealth.

A new chapter of Pennsylvania history is being written in our backyard, and we are holding the pen.

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

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