Six-State Study Finds Industry Supporters Exaggerated Jobs Impact of Shale Drilling

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

Drilling in the six states that span the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations has produced far fewer new jobs than the industry and its supporters claim. In fact, in Pennsylvania, shale-related employment accounted for less than half a percent of total nonfarm employment in 2012 (as the figure to the right shows).

These findings come from a new report released today by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative — a group of research organizations, including the Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, tracking the impacts of shale drilling.

As Frank Mauro, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute in New York and one of the authors of the report put it: "Industry supporters have exaggerated the jobs impact in order to minimize or avoid altogether taxation, regulation, and even careful examination of shale drilling."

The Marcellus and Utica shale formations span six states: New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.

To be clear, shale drilling has created jobs, particularly in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and cushioned some drilling-intensive areas in these states from the worst effects of the Great Recession and the weak recovery. The number of actual shale jobs created, however, is far below industry claims. Shale employment remains a small share of overall employment and has made little difference in job growth in any of the six states studied.

Natural gas development in these states from 2000 to 2008 was largely fueled by high commodity prices. As prices have declined more recently, gas drilling activity has slowed while development of higher-priced oil has accelerated.

Recent trends are consistent with the boom and bust pattern that has characterized extractive industries for decades. It also points to the need for state and local policymakers to collaborate to enact policies that serve the public interest.

You can check out the full report and press release here. We'll be back here next week with more findings from the report.

News & Notes November 22, 2013

Fifty years ago I was sitting in class (fifth or sixth grade) when news came that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

Why is it that no one taught the millenial generation the magic words?  None of these young people has the capacity to say thank you when I do business with their employers.

Thanks to failed conservative economic policies poverty has been on the rise.  This report tells of it increasing in Pittsburgh’s suburbs.

Saturday Night Live had a hilarious parody of the Patriot-News’ apology for panning the Gettysburg Address 150 years ago.  Even the actor had trouble keeping a straight face.  This is must see.

As the holiday season approaches please remember not to contribute to the rabidly homophobic Salvation Army.

The House and Senate finally concurred on the transportation bill and it now sits on the Governor’s desk.  One good feature in the bill is raising of fines for violations such as running stop signs and red lights.  Now, perhaps, drivers in the Commonwealth might actually learn to drive safely rather than endanger others because the fine was so low ($25).

Voters in Albuquerque voted down an attempt to restrict women’s reproductive rights.  Reminder:  we don’t put basic rights up for vote.  I wonder what right wingers would think if we put measures on the ballot outlawing guns.

Family Dollar is the latest business to be caught in wage theft.  Shop somewhere else.

Our stupid lawmakers in Harrisburg have decided that “In God We Trust” is our national motto and should be in every public school.  Besides being a violation of the separation of church and state it isn’t actually our national motto.  That would be E Pluribus Unum.

Right wingers found another mythical thing to go batshit crazy over this week:  President Obama omitted the words “under God” from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address.  Here’s the reality:  Ken Burns asked him to do a version which didn’t include those words.

Anonymous is calling for a worldwide day of action:…

Katie McGinty has a new website going.  She’s certainly the early surprise among a large field of candidates.

An Arizona family got a lesson in how good socialism is when their home burned down.  A private, for profit fire company billed them $20,000 for responding tot he conflagration.  A public fire company actually doused the fire.

Anthony Weiner really screwed up.  If only he’d gotten arrested for cocaine instead of just doing something stupid he’d still be in Congress.

Wal-Mart got slapped upside the head for violating workers rights.  It’s about time.  An Ohio outlet is actually holding a food drive for employees so they can eat on Thanksgiving.  Hey, here’s a better plan:  pay them a living wage so they can buy their own food.

Rev. Frank Schaefer was convicted by the United Methodist Church for presiding over his son’s wedding six years ago.  He was suspended and has become a leader of parents with LGBT children.  Someone please give him a job.

Elizabeth Hasselbeck, now of Faux News, thinks ObamaCare is hurting elderly pregnant women.  She followed up that brilliant observation by claiming Oprah Winfrey was undermining racism.  I sure hope so.

Corbett Lying About Education Cuts

Gov. Tom Corbett is going around campaigning for re-election trying to excuse his ignominious cuts to public education by blaming the expired American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The stimulus bill (which Republicans repeatedly called a “failed” bill in the 2012 elections) obviously didn’t fail at all since it kept 14,000 teachers employed teaching our children in public schools.

Corbett is telling voters that his $860 million cut in the 2011 budget wasn’t his fault because the stimulus bill had expired and those federal funds were no longer available.  While partially true that is a lie because that same bill also funded prisons and medical assistance.  

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Somehow Gov. Gasbag found state funds to replace most of that spending while public education was slashed.  The 2008-2009 state budgets actually devoted more money to education than Corbett is doing now and this was prior to the stimulus.

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We now spend twice as much on prisons as we do for higher education:

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These charts are courtesy of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.  They illustrate that our Governor is attempting to fool voters by lying about his priorities.  Budgets are priorities, they reflect our values by assigning public funds for our needs and wants.  Corbett has cut corporate taxes while tossing hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, including children, off health care and welfare.  He has refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA and his budget priorities have hurt the Commonwealth’s jobs situation.

Instead of funding public education we are building three new prisons.  Prison and judiciary are costing us enormously.  The 2011-12 budget year saw us incarcerate 49,000 inmates at a cost of $35,188 apiece.  This doesn’t include the costs of judiciary, inmate education, legal costs and capital projects.

At the same time we spent $9.3 billion educating 1.8 million children in our public schools.  That came to $5,305/child.  We are failing our children and so are condemning too many of them to a life behind bars.  We can either educate them or incarcerate them.  Which bill do you prefer funding?  $35,000 or $5300?

The education costing out study done during the Rendell Administration said we need around $12,000/child to adequately educate each child.  Obviously we are failing that test miserably under Tom Corbett.  Uneducated people have great difficulty getting and keeping jobs.  Without an educated workforce businesses will leave Pennsylvania or fail to locate here.  These citizens, left behind by greedy taxpayers refusing to invest in our common good, will resort to whatever means available to survive.  Many of them, as a result, will have to be incarcerated.

Education is a “pay me now or pay me later” scenario.  Either invest in our children and create a dynamic economic future or continue with a failed school to prison pipeline.

Transportation Bill Goes Back to Senate

The state House finally passed a transportation bill yesterday after failing to do so Monday.  On a re-vote a bipartisan group of lawmakers narrowly passed a bill which isn’t perfect but which is critically needed.   The legislation now returns to the Senate which already passed a similar bill earlier in the year.

This bill raises the gas tax by 28 cents/gallon over five years which is steep but we must pay for the roads, bridges and transit somehow.  We do need to find new and more innovative methods of funding transportation as vehicles get more fuel efficient and we gradually rely less and less on fossil fuels.

The prevailing wage didn’t belong in this bill and it made it far more difficult to pass.  The bill raises the threshold for triggering the living wages from $25,000 to $100,000.  The limit hadn’t been raised since 1961 so it was due for review.  Let’s just remind Republicans how important considering cost of living increases is when the minimum wage bill comes before them for a vote.

The new threshold for the prevailing wage won’t, in my opinion, have much of an impact.  I don’t think there are many transportation projects which cost under $100,000.  The prevailing wage means non-union workers get paid equivalent wages as their union brothers.  This illustrates the failure of right to work laws in which freeloaders can piggyback on unions for similar wages, benefits and job conditions without paying for them.

I always thought conservatives hated freeloaders so why do they support right to work for less?

No Area Safe From Fracking

by Walter Brasch

At the time New Jersey established a ban on fracking, it seemed symbolic, much like the moratorium in Vermont, which has no economically recoverable natural gas; the Marcellus Shale, primarily in New York and Pennsylvania, doesn’t extend into New Jersey.

New York has a moratorium on fracking until a health impact statement is completed.

Pennsylvania, rushing to compete with groundhogs in digging up the state, has no such moratorium. Nor does the state have any plans to conduct extensive research into the health effects of fracking-Gov. Tom Corbett, the gas industry’s cheerleader, cut $2 million from the Department of Health to provide for a public health analysis.

As it is, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie exercised his authority and partially vetoed his state’s moratorium to reduce it to a one-year ban. That moratorium expired in January.

During this past year, more evidence became public. Beneath New Jersey and extending into southeastern Pennsylvania lies the Newark Basin.

But, even then, New Jersey residents may believe they are safe. Although there was economically recoverable gas in the South Newark basin that lies beneath five counties in Pennsylvania, most of New Jersey is barren of recoverable gas in the North Newark Basin.

But, New Jersey isn’t safe, and there are four major reasons:

● (1) Independent scientific studies reveal both environmental and health effects from fracking. As every elementary school child knows, air and water pollution don’t stop at Pennsylvania’s borders.

● (2) Part of the Utica Shale lies below the Newark Basin, primarily beneath Sussex and Warren counties. To get recoverable gas would require significantly more water and toxic chemicals to be sent into the deeper shale, and would produce significantly more toxic wastewater, along with the resulting health and environmental problems. If drillers can see a way to profitably take natural gas from the Utica Shale, they will.

● (3) Even if there is no fracking in the state, New Jersey is a prime location for compressor stations and the large underground transmission lines from the Marcellus Shale to New York.  At least once a day, somewhere in the country, is a pipeline leak or gas explosion.

● (4) New Jersey is open to receiving toxic waste. Several hundred thousand gallons of frackwaste and drillings that were too toxic or radioactive to be left in Pennsylvania have been trucked into New Jersey to be processed and disposed.

“These plants aren’t designed to safely process this waste before dumping it into our rivers and landfills,” says Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

The New Jersey senate voted 30-5, and the assembly voted 56-19, to ban frack waste. The vote appeared strong enough to be veto proof, but, Gov. Christie vetoed it in June. The legislature hasn’t brought up a vote to override the veto, probably because some Republicans believe such an action could be politically embarrassing for themselves and the popular governor. That lack of action has left New Jersey open to being Pennsylvania’s dumping ground-and the continued butt of jokes from New York comics.

Gov. Christie’s veto wasn’t justified, says Carluccio, because “the main responsibility of the State is to protect residents’ health and safety and a ban on toxic frack waste would do exactly that. The Governor’s veto is an inexcusable cop-out without legal foundation, exposing New Jersey’s communities and drinking water to just what we don’t need-more pollution.”

Just as Pennsylvania residents who live outside the Marcellus Shale shouldn’t believe they are safe from fracking’s effects, neither should the people of New Jersey believe that just because wells don’t dot their landscape they also are safe.

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist, and the author of 18 books. His latest book, Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster, is available at local bookstores,, and

News & Notes November 14, 2013

Gov. Gasbag is going around the state claiming that Marcellus Shale gas has created 200,000 jobs.  That’s a lie unless you add in the hookers and bartenders taking “care” of all the out of state workers living in seedy motels.  The actual count is about 28,000.  Maybe all that cash flowing into his campaign coffers from gas companies is affecting his brain.  Either that or our idiot Governor can’t do math.

A million people are shopping for health care on and about 106,000 have signed up for plans.  Thirty six states, including Pennsylvania, refused to create their own websites contributing to the overload on the federal website.  Another 400,000 have signed up under the expanded Medicaid plan, again something Gov. Gasbag has refused to set up.  That means that in the first month of ObamaCare half a million people now have coverage.

I’ve never seen Republicans so concerned about folks losing their “health insurance.”  Of course what most of them have are health scams which don’t actually cover anything.  I have Medicare which completely covered my colonoscopy this week.  Perhaps we should cash in on this new found concern and pass Medicare For All.  Catch them in their hypocrisy.

My alma mater Penn State reportedly offered the presidency to war criminal Condoleezza Rice.  Shame.

Kudos to Sen. Toomey for voting for ENDA.  Many thanks to all those who called his office urging him to vote for equality.  This may be the first vote he’s cast in Washington for which I’m supportive.

State Senator Jim Ferlo has announced he won’t run for re-election next year.  Republicans effectively redistricted the liberal lion out of his seat.  Shame on them.

MontCo GOP Chair Robert Kerns is under investigation for sexual assault.

One way to try and overturn our current police state is through the courts.  Occupy Philadelphia is suing now for the unconstitutional arrest of 26 protesters two years ago.  All were acquitted.

CBS is under withering criticism for journalistic ethical lapses.  Not only did they use a phony source for their Benghazi story it turns out they have promoted his and others books on the show without disclosing they were actually promoting books published by their own publishing company.  This and other lapses bring a huge dark cloud over all of CBS’s reporting.

PoliticsPA says Allyson Schwartz is leading the Democratic Gubernatorial field at 22%.  Katie McGinty is second at 15%.  34% remain undecided though so take these numbers with a grain of salt.

Typhoon Haiyan destroyed part of the Philippines as climate change continues wreaking havoc around the world.  It’s time we ignored the morons denying this and move to make changes before we kill ourselves.

Sarah Palin thinks she knows better than African Americans what constitutes slavery.  That’s the most pathetic thing I’ve heard from a conservative in days.

The next time you’re feeling overly self important look at this video from Carl Sagan:

Let’s Phrase This Another Way


by Walter Brasch

O.K., all you loyal readers, I’d appreciate it if you would “Put your hands together” for today’s commentary. I want you to “give it up” for me. But, most of all, I want you to “show me some love.”

If you’d like to stand and applaud enthusiastically, that’d be waaaay cool.

At one time, TV audiences saw a flashing light that had the word, “applause.” That’s all that was needed, just in case no one wanted to cheer an oncoming actor or TV guest.

Now we have the host telling us in so many ways that we have to-well-put our hands together and give it up while showing some love.  

I have no idea how those phrases became a part of the American language, but they are there. And they are annoying.

On almost every TV game show, the host will enthusiastically ask, “Are you ready!?” The contestant will respond, “I was born ready!” Maybe the genome project should be looking for the “ready gene,” instead of worrying about such mundane things as genetic predisposition to breast cancer.

“Brand new” is another phrase that is useless. TV hosts like to announce “You can win a brand new car!” Advertising agencies splash us with “brand new” products. And if you go to an obstetrics ward, you can see all those “brand new babies.”

Also annoying is TV news people talking about icons or something that is iconic. When Justin Bieber is called a pop music icon, isn’t it time to stop and think about what an icon is? I’m sure there’s an admonition somewhere about worshipping false biebers?

Speaking about false things, far too many politicians, business executives, and other news sources will say, kind of confidential-like, “Let me be honest with you,” and then say something that was probably rehearsed to make the reporter think she or he is getting an exclusive. Shouldn’t the reporter then question everything else that source ever said? Far too often, reporters let their sources skate past any embarrassing follow-up questions.

The language of business is also annoying. While most of us fall asleep after the first two sentences of an annual report, most of us also know that when a corporation announces it plans to “rightsize,” “downsize,” and “outsource,” it really means Management is planning to “maximize its profits” and get rid of the lower-paid workers who were responsible for any profits the company ever did have.

“That was then, this is now” and “To the best of my recollection, at that point in time” are two phrases we should put into a concrete time vault and keep from appearing for at least another eon or so. By then, there will be no point and the now will be a then-or something like it.

I’m also getting annoyed with hearing sportscasters tell us that a team that is doing better than the odds-makers believed, “came to play,” What else would the teams be doing? They have contracts. They have schedules. Does anyone think they came to seed the field or take an afternoon nap? Of course they came to play. That’s why it’s called a game!

We can also “terminate with extreme prejudice,” a phrase we all learned from watching TV spy movies, the feel-good phrases, “I feel your pain” and “Thank you for sharing that.” The downside is it would mean that for the other 14 weeks of a semester, college interpersonal communications classes would have to find other ways to communicate feelings.

Does anyone else think it’s time to find replacements for “Bro,” “M’man,” Dude,” and “You go, girl”?

And while we’re dumping overused phrases, how about burying, “You’re the man!” or its less grammatical brother, “You da man!”

Coming up “in the near future,” a phrase also with no useful reason to exist, will be Spring. Your best friend bought a barbeque, and you’re salivating for burnt burgers. When everything is ready, you, he, she, or any of a dozen other moochers will officially bless the event by declaring, “OK, let’s fire up that Bad Boy.” Of course, “bad boy” doesn’t always apply to barbeques. It applies to just about everything imaginable. Buy a rusted-out 40-year-old car you plan to restore-“That’s some bad boy you got there.” You just fixed your vacuum cleaner-“Time to make that bad boy do its thing.” The only thing that’s not a “bad boy” is a prison- tattooed, scar-faced felon who may have been disrespected.

So, let’s also dump the word “disrespect” and its abbreviated version, “dis,” as in “he just dissed you” and “the reason I shot that SOB is because he disrespected me.”

But, we do have a way to atone for that shooting. As the person who you think disrespected you is lying in a pool of blood, just throw out a flip, “Oops, my bad.” That should be more than enough to convince a DA that you’re apologetic and shouldn’t be in court.

[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the health and environmental effects, as well as political and business collusion, and claims of economic benefits.]


Labor Protests Yuengling

Don’t buy or drink Yuengling beer.  Dick Yuengling threw the Teamsters out of his Pottsville brewery and now is pushing for a right to work for less bill in Harrisburg.  Organized labor responded today with a large rally in Pottsville.  They marched to the courthouse and remembered the ten Molly Maguires who were convicted and hung for standing up for their rights in 1870.  Six of them were hung at the jail behind the courthouse:

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I cringe every time I see union members and progressives drinking Yuengling.  I even see it at Democratic Party and campaign events.  How do you condone supporting a union buster?  Today several hundred union members marched and rallied with signs saying “Stop Dick.”  I’m just happy I wasn’t at an anti gay pride rally!  Yuengling is a dick though and a lot of those present this morning were Teamsters, the union he disbanded.  Yuengling threatened that if the union didn’t leave he would move his brewery to Mexico.  Have you drunk Mexican beer?  It looks and tastes like piss, that’s why you have to put limes in it.  If he did that he’d have to abandon his slogan “America’s Oldest Brewery.”  His new slogan should be “America’s Biggest Union Buster.”

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Gasbag Kicks Off Gubernatorial Race

Gov. Gasbag kicked off his re-election campaign and is trying to message it as “Promises Kept.”  Yes, to the corporations and energy companies who bankroll his campaigns perhaps but not to the people.  He has kicked hundreds of thousands off health care, cut education by a billion bucks, channeled another $1.5 billion from public schools to charters, cut business taxes while cutting your services and illustrated a complete inability to work with the legislature.  Add to all that his affinity for putting his foot in his mouth every time it opens.

Remember “they just have to close their eyes?”  My advice for the Corbett campaign is this:  just close your eyes when the election returns begin rolling in next November.

A hundred protesters greeted the Guv in Philadelphia yesterday.  Eight Democrats have already greeted him in the race.  Corbett is dead Governor walking, an incumbent with zero chance of re-election.  Polish up that resume Tom and begin greasing up for the screwing the voters are about to give you.

Meanwhile Mayor Ed Pawlowski of Allentown showed a marked weakness Tuesday.  With just nominal independent opposition he failed to garner as many votes as he did in 2009.  His vaunted campaign team told the Express Times they had 220 volunteers knock on 120,000 doors Tuesday and 78,000 over the weekend.  Did anyone bother to do the math before publishing these ludicrous claims?  That means each canvasser hit 545 doors or 45/hour for twelve hours without a break.  Give me a break.

Cut to Federal Nutrition Assistance Impacts Families and Children in Every PA County

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

A major funding cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) took effect November 1, impacting 1.8 million Pennsylvanians.

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger and a powerful tool to help keep families out of poverty. Benefits are modest, offering many Pennsylvania families a crucial bridge in this slow economic recovery.

The November 1 cut is the result of an expiring provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that temporarily boosted SNAP to strengthen the economy and ease hardship in the wake of the recession. The cut totals $5 billion nationwide for the remaining months of the federal fiscal year (November 2013-September 2014), including $183 million in Pennsylvania.

Nearly 66 cents of every dollar cut in Pennsylvania ($120 million) will reduce the benefits of households with children. Another 37 cents out of every dollar cut ($68 million) will reduce benefits for Pennsylvanians who are elderly or living with disabilities. Click here or on the map below to view how many people, households, and children are impacted by the cut to SNAP in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

PA County Map

In addition to helping to feed hungry families, SNAP is one of the fastest, most effective ways to spur the economy. Every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity. Benefits boost demand for farm produce, helping to keep our nation’s farms strong.

The cuts may force some Pennsylvanians to choose between food and other priorities. Ruth Vesa, a 78-year-old widow in Pittsburgh, said in August when the cuts were announced: “I’m very thankful for the food stamp program because it enables me to have good food to eat and not be worried about my medical prescriptions. Otherwise I would have to make a choice. Any cuts to the program would be hurtful to me personally.”

For a family of three, the cut will likely mean a reduction of $29 a month – $319 for the remaining 11 months of the fiscal year. This is a serious loss for families whose benefits, after this cut, will average less than $1.40 per person per meal. It is the equivalent of taking away 21 meals per month for a family of four or 16 meals for a family of three.

That’s the bad news. The even worse news is that additional cuts to SNAP could be on the way. In September, the U.S. House narrowly approved legislation that would cut $39 billion in SNAP funding over the next decade. The Senate has not taken up the bill.

If enacted, a cut that large would deny SNAP to approximately 3.8 million low-income people in 2014 and to an average of nearly 3 million people each year over the coming decade, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates. Those who would be thrown off the program include many low-income children, seniors, and families that work for low wages.