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PA’s Rural Population Decline—an Honest Conversation

Dave Hess (former DEP Secretary) and other environmental extremists have come up with a new way to attack PA oil and gas production—they claim a link between Pennsylvania’s declining rural population and some sort of perceived failure of the oil and gas industry to provide sufficient economic positive impacts to stem declines. They claim that oil and gas production doesn’t produce as many jobs or positive financial impacts as various studies have shown.

But their arguments fail the truth test. Pennsylvania’s declining rural population has nothing to do with the perceived evils of oil and gas production. Between 2010 and 2020 America’s rural population declined for the first time. That national trend cannot be blamed on oil and gas production—and PA’s population decline simply mirrors that national trend.

In fact, oil and gas production is one of the few bright spots for rural Pennsylvanians. Want hard facts? Oil and gas production paid royalties, alone, of $6.3 billion in 2022. Yup, that’s billion with a “b” of royalties going to local farmers and other landowners across rural Pennsylvania.

And that’s just royalties. The industry generates over 120,000 jobs, paying an average salary of nearly $100,000. Economic-and-Fiscal-Impact-of-Pennsylvania-Shale-Development.pdf ( And each year the industry pays hundreds of millions of dollars of impact fees to local municipalities.

Ask this simple question: where would PA’s rural communities be WITHOUT the benefits of oil and gas production.

Want to have an honest discussion about rural population decline? That’s a good thing. But don’t pollute the discussion with the extremists’ prejudice against oil and gas production and consumption.

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