According to a new analysis, Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry kept booming last year to the tune of more than $41 billion in economic activity.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) released details of the study conducted by FTI Consulting this week. It found Pennsylvania’s energy sector supported 123,000 jobs, roughly the size of Allentown, the state’s third-largest city. Industry workers earned an average salary of $97,000. The median annual wage for Pennsylvania is $45,790, according to Pennsylvania’s Center for Workforce Information & Analysis.

“Energy is the lifeblood of Pennsylvania’s economy, and our sector works hard daily to safely deliver affordable, clean, and reliable energy for our country and the world,” MSC president David Callahan said. “This new economic data, focused specifically on the natural gas sector within Pennsylvania’s borders, not only demonstrates the essential role of the natural gas industry but also the urgency to prioritize infrastructure development and permitting reform to maximize these job-creating benefits.”

That meant big bucks for Pennsylvania’s tax coffers, too.

State and local governments received a total of $3.2 billion, including the $279 million Impact Fee split between the state’s 67 counties. By comparison, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro asked for $1.6 billion for the state police and $46 million for the state Department of Agriculture.

The federal government also received $2.6 billion in taxes from Pennsylvania natural gas companies.

Green energy advocates still aren’t convinced. PennFuture argues that the natural gas industry’s promises don’t match what has been delivered.

“According to data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, 123,000 jobs is more than 2 percent of all the jobs in Pennsylvania in 2021,” said Rob Altenburg, Senior Director of Energy and Policy. “There are less than 4,000 jobs in oil and gas production in the state, so the coalition would have to claim lots of other jobs are “supported” by gas in other industries…The Marcellus Shale Coalition is clearly not considering the jobs we have lost in clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other industries because of opposition from the gas industry.”

PennFuture wants the state to transition to “cleaner and more sustainable alternatives” even though the gas industry is performing well by all accounts. “This means more clean energy, but it also means more investment in energy efficiency and new technologies,” said Altenburg.

Advocates for natural gas respond the U.S. isn’t technically or economically ready for an immediate transition and that every coal power plant replaced with natural gas cuts emissions by about 50 percent. And Pennsylvania is in a unique position to benefit. The Marcellus Shale is America’s largest natural gas field – located mostly in Pennsylvania. The state’s gas reserves have quadrupled since 2011, when large-scale development started.

The state’s natural gas production is 13 times greater than it was in 2010, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics. Industry advocates say that is great news for a region that the gas industry considered a desiccated corpse just two decades ago.

“This study tells us what we already know and don’t hear enough: Pennsylvania natural gas is a force for good and provides the reliable, affordable energy our families and small businesses need,” Consumer Energy Alliance Mid-Atlantic Director Mike Butler told DVJournal. The money, jobs, and positive impacts speak louder than the shouting of activists whose narrow interests are not in Pennsylvania’s interest.”

MSC hosted its Shale Insight 2023 Conference this week in Erie. It looked at what the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania might look like through 2050.

“The only thing surprising about [the MSC] report is how a few select vocal opponents still simply refuse to acknowledge how much natural gas development powers our economy,” said Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, a statewide coalition that works to advance pipeline projects.

“Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources continue to be a blessing, not just with the jobs they create, but with the savings they bring to consumers and revenue they generate for government at every level.”

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