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Trump to talk energy in Pittsburgh

The Associated Press
| Sunday, September 18, 2016 10:30 p.m
PTRTRUMP10041416
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 13, 2016.

Western Pennsylvania and neighboring areas in Ohio and West Virginia are playing a key role in America’s changing energy industry as shale companies have created jobs despite market challenges, advocates say.

The region is a focal point in this year’s presidential race.

Those worlds will collide this week when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks Thursday at the annual Shale Insight conference at Downtown Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which is expected to draw up to 1,500 industry professionals. Organizers invited Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but she declined because of scheduling conflicts.

“We’re very excited to hear from Donald Trump at this week’s conference, and to put our industry and its shared economic, environmental and national security-related successes on a national stage,” said Dave Spigelmyer, president of the North Fayette-based Marcellus Shale Coalition.

The coalition is co-sponsoring the Shale Insight conference with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.

Trump’s speech is coming a week after he released an economic policy proposal that focused heavily on the energy industry.

“The Trump administration will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country,” read the policy paper, which promises to boost the nation’s gross domestic product by $100 billion and create 500,000 new jobs annually by, among other things, “lifting unnecessary restrictions on all sources of American energy.”

The proposal doesn’t spell out which restrictions. It said Trump’s administration would support coal production, safe fracking, energy production in “appropriate areas” of federally protected land and opening up “vast areas of our offshore energy resources for safe production.”

Thomas Murphy, director of Penn State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, questioned whether a president could simultaneously lift all energy sectors through policy change.

“What you’re seeing at the moment is that all energy types are competing against one another. When natural gas finds increased opportunities with power generation, there is displacement with other types of energy production, particularly coal. To think that all (energy sectors) could move forward would be predicated on there being increased energy demand” to use all of the increased production, Murphy said.

Further complicating matters for a president is that Washington doesn’t have the only say-so in regulatory matters — state governments also do. For example, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation refused to grant a permit for a company to build a pipeline that would help transport gas from Pennsylvania to the Northeast more economically.

Bill Polacek, president and CEO of the Johnstown manufacturing company JWF Industries, said Trump’s economic plan “is exactly what the manufacturing industry in Pennsylvania needs to thrive.”

Polacek added, “I know from personal experience that job creators have been stifled by the Obama administration’s devastating regulations. Hillary Clinton represents the third term of President Obama and there’s too much at stake to let her continue and even expand these unnecessary and burdensome federal regulations.”

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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