PITTSBURGH — President Donald Trump, speaking at a Marcellus shale conference in downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday, praised Pennsylvania as being “the best” in the United States when it comes to natural gas production.
The president vowed to continue to expedite permitting processes and other obstacles that get in the way of the industry’s rapid growth.
“Nobody does it better than the hard-working men and women of Marcellus shale country,” Trump said Wednesday afternoon to an audience of more than 1,500 people, a mix of attendees with the Shale Insight 2019 industry conference and members of the public invited inside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to hear Trump speak. “Wouldn’t it be great if New York realized what they were sitting on top of?”
The New York comment is a reference to that state’s ban on shale gas extraction by employing hydraulic-fracturing techniques that led to the gas boom in Pennsylvania and neighboring West Virginia. Environmental concerns, not least about water quality, are cited by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration in blocking fracking in New York’s Southern Tier.
Trump’s remarks echoed much of what he said when he visited the region less than three months ago. He also referenced the pledges he made at the Shale Insight conference in the same venue as a presidential candidate in 2016.
“You’re much happier than when I was here three years ago, you’re much happier now,” Trump said. “And you’re much wealthier, and you’re providing a lot more energy than you used to, that’s for sure.”
Trump reiterated many of the same points he made to hundreds of construction workers at the Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County in August.
• The Trump administration has “ended the war on American energy” and “the assault on energy workers.” He vowed to continue reducing regulatory burdens and expanding pipelines and drilling across the country.
• The Trump administration has made the U.S. the “greatest energy superpower in the history of the world.” He also cited his expectations for growth in the coal, steel and manufacturing sectors.
• The “do-nothing Democrats” are bad for this country and must be stopped, Trump said. He accused Democrats of wanting to increase the number of “sanctuary cities” and take away guns. But he credited them with having less division than Republicans: “They don’t have a Mitt Romney,” Trump said. “We’ve got to stick together.”
The president reassured that he “represents Pittsburgh, not Paris” in his decision to pull out of the Paris Accord, the global agreement aimed to address the impacts of climate change.
“What we don’t do is punish the Americans people while enriching foreign polluters,” Trump said. “It’s called America first, finally.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, said in a statement that Trump’s comments about energy “are wrong, and stuck in an outdated 19th century mindset. The Pittsburgh region is thriving and has moved on to a 21st century economy based on technology and clean energy production. President Trump’s outdated vision for Western Pennsylvania and the Rust Belt would put the final nails into the coffin of those struggling communities his economy has left behind.”
But Trump, suring his speech, claimed, “Our air is as clean as it’s been in decades. We’re at a very, very good point environmentally right now.”
Pennsylvania Democrats blasted Trump’s economic policies, saying their constituents have been left behind.
“The Trump economy is not working,” said state Rep. Austin Davis, D-McKeesport. “My Mon Valley constituents are frustrated by closed factories. They’re frustrated by the lack of a good plan that will make prescription drugs more affordable.”
Davis cited the July closing of the Riverbend Foods North Side plant, which resulted in the layoff of 400 workers.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said the administration’s market-based approach has allowed natural gas production in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale to flourish.
“The policy has been to let it happen — and as a result, there has been a tremendous development of oil and gas. The result is America is the world’s No. 1 producer of energy,” Toomey said.
PennEnvironment, a statewide environmental advocacy group, issued a statement Wednesday critical of Trump’s stance on fracking.
“Pittsburghers have a different vision for our future. It’s one with clean air, plastic-free rivers, and 100% clean renewable energy that leaves toxic fracking as a distant memory,” the group’s statement said in part. “If President Trump wants to represent Pittsburgh, he must recognize this and drop his support for petrochemicals. Anything short of that spells catastrophe for our health and our climate.”
Toomey said it’s important to “keep drinking water safe, but you can do that without unnecessary, excessive and time-consuming regulatory burdens.”