By Jared Edgerton, Contributing Writer
On Monday, Pennsylvania Congressmen Jason Altmire (D-McCandless), Mark Critz (D-Johnstown), and Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg) co-signed on an open letter to President Obama urging him to expand Marcellus Shale drilling in the United States.
The letter (PDF), signed by four Republicans and four Democrats, calls for President Obama to invest in natural gas drilling as a way to promote energy independence. The Congressmen characterize the United States’ current situation as the perfect opportunity to support the natural gas drilling industry, citing revolutions in the Middle East which are limiting oil imports, lauding European countries’ efforts to diversify their energy sources, and pointing out the potential threat of natural resource competition from developing countries in need of broader energy production.
The letter ends by imploring President Obama not to impose environmental regulation that would stifle the industry, writing that shale gas recovery “does not pollute our Nation’s water supply,” and asking that the President “advance the concepts [stated in the letter] later this year…to Members of both parties.”
Although the letter focuses on pushing gas drilling as a way to strengthen national security, there are also two unmentioned reasons for the Pennsylvania Congressmen who signed the letter to support shale drilling.
First, the natural gas industry has created a tremendous economic boom for their constituents. Reports indicate that the drilling industry has created 48,000 jobs in Pennsylvania in the last 18 months.
Signing the letter also helps Representative Critz and Altmire position themselves as moderate Democrats. Because redistricting will favor the GOP (which controls the state Senate, state House and the Governor’s mansion — and thus the reigns of the redistricting efforts), both Critz and Altmire could face reelection bids even more challenging than usual. The letter helps give credibility to their claim that they are moderates who will have the ability to attract swing voters next year.