The more time that passes since the Marcellus Shale boom began in 2008, the more time researchers have had to put into focus the economic impact of shale drilling on the state's economy.
The emerging picture is not entirely rosy.
Last year, researchers from Penn State said more than 44,000 jobs were created directly or indirectly by shale drilling in 2009. (Other industry-backed studies reported even higher numbers.)
But a just-released study from a different team of PSU researchers said the figure is more like 23,500 - about half as many. The study was funded by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
Critics have long accused the gas industry of overstating its impact, pointing to Bureau of Labor statistics, which simply factor jobs added, that show only 9,000-10,000 jobs added directly by drillers, not just in 2009 but over four years.
As with previous ones, the jobs figure in the latest study accounts for actual jobs created (drilling jobs, engineering jobs, front-office jobs), as well as indirect jobs, i.e., local suppliers, hotels and restaurants.
But unlike previous studies, researchers looked beyond the number of jobs and amount of revenue generated by drilling to where the money is going and how quickly it is being spent.
For example, the study found that locals who benefit from gas exploration do not spend their lease and royalty checks immediately, which means the money is not having a direct, immediate benefit on the local economy.
The latest study gives a more accurate read on who and which areas are benefiting from natural gas drilling, and the numbers aren't living up to the hype.
Still, they are significant, especially when the overall jobs picture in Pennsylvania - and the nation is as bleak as it is.
- The Lancaster New Era
SPECIAL SERIES STAMPED BY KEYSTONE'S LEGACY
The Keystone Little Leaguers didn't leave the 65th Little League World Series with the world title.
That designation goes to a very deserving team of wonderful young sportsmen from Huntington Beach, Ca.
But the Keystone kids,who made the series magical, left with something more than a title a legacy that will be remembered generations from now.
While their winning got them into the series and then deep into the competition one of the final six teams remaining Thursday the kids brought something more.
For starters, they brought all of Clinton County and much of the rest of the region with them to the games creating record crowds at the world series.
They handled the pressure and notoriety with poise and class.
The enduring image of the team probably wasn't between the foul lines, but rather the team's collective doffing of caps to their fans in the stands and on the banks after each game.
Most of all, they reminded us what sports at all levels are supposed to be about.
The pure competition and ultimate result combined with a stage full of performers is unique to sports.
Watching the real-life drama play out each night creates pride and joins communities together like few other happenings in our lives.
Not just the winning, but the way they won, made the Keystone kids special.
And when they lost Thursday night, they fought through the tears and heartbreak long enough for a celebratory lap around the stadium, allowing thousands of followers and a national television audience to enjoy an indelible moment.
It's hard to calculate the growth that came to the Keystone kids during their run to the series and their experience during the world competition.
We can't help but believe they learned lessons and acquired skills on a grand stage that will make them productive adults some day.
Add that to the list of Keystone's legacies.
- Williamsport Sun-Gazette
LCB SHOULD GO OUT OF BUSINESS
Gov. Tom Corbett and some state lawmakers have an idea for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board: They want to get it out of the business of selling wine and liquor. Privatizing the liquor stores is certainly not a new proposal, but it's one that's gotten some fresh legs since Corbett took office in January.
Opposition remains strong, however, among those who claim the state stores are a lucrative source of revenue for the commonwealth. That argument, plus the added benefit the stores supposedly provide in controlling illegal sales of alcohol, so far have trumped complaints that LCB prices are too high and too little attention is paid to customer convenience.
The LCB tried to address the convenience issue by installing wine vending machines in supermarkets around the state. Upscale Wegmans Food Markets agreed to install kiosks in 10 of its Pennsylvania locations, only to end its agreement less than a year later amid complaints of machine malfunctions, limited selection and lack of personal service. The machines' contractor said the mechanical breakdowns were overblown all along and are even less of a problem now. Still to be resolved are poor selection and no service.
And this: State Auditor General Jack Wagner took aim at the "profitability" of the wine kiosks (two weeks ago), noting that his staff found the LCB spent $1.1 million more to operate the vending machines than it took in through June 30. The liquor agency has 22 kiosks, and earlier this year a spokeswoman said there were plans for more despite the sour Wegmans experience. The auditor general's findings might be a good reason to rethink that expansion strategy.
Wagner believes the way to best achieve customer convenience is to grant the liquor stores longer operating hours: "seven days a week, 12 hours a day." Liquor Control Board CEO Joe Conti seconds the idea of longer store hours.
That would make the customer experience more convenient. But it skirts the fundamental issue of whether the state belongs in the liquor business, going on 80 years. Private wine, liquor and beer sales in other states have not caused the downfall of society. They have given consumers convenience, good choices and good prices while allowing for state regulation and taxation.
Bringing liquor sales into the 21st century through a network of privately operated, state-monitored liquor stores would serve the entire commonwealth.
- Bucks County Courier Times