Thursday, October 5, 2023

Center For Rural Pennsylvania: Rural Population To Shrink 5.8%; Fewer Young People, More Older People; Current Policies Failed To Sustain Communities, Ensure Long-Term Rural Resiliency

On October 4, the
Center for Rural Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Data Center released population projections for rural Pennsylvania showing changes in Pennsylvania’s population will likely affect a wide range of policy issues, including workforce availability, housing, health care, education, and transportation.

The projections indicate that by 2050, the population within rural counties is expected to shrink by 5.8%. The total growth rate for all of Pennsylvania over the next 30 years will be less than what it was between 2010 and 2020. 

The report shows the number of residents over 65 is expected to increase sharply through 2050. When coupled with a declining birth rate, the increase means rural Pennsylvanians over the age of 65 will soon outnumber those under 20. 

“The demand for more senior care, coupled with the previously mentioned decrease in working-age adults, presents a lot of challenges for the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), a member of the Center Board. “Additionally, the financial pressures from these changes will be especially pronounced in rural areas.”

Between 2010 and 2020, the Commonwealth’s population grew at a rate of 2.4%. Between 2020 and 2050, projections suggest an overall growth rate of just 1.6%.

Counties farther north and west are more likely to experience population decline or stagnation over the next 30 years.

Overall, 41 counties are projected to face significant population decline, some by more than 24%

Some of the most significant declines are projected in Adams (12%), Armstrong (15.6%), Beaver (8.9%), Bradford (4.8%), Cambria (9.2%), Cameron (9.7%), Carbon (13%), Columbia (15.8%), Elk (15.4%), Forest (19.7%), Greene (4.8%), Lycoming (1.6%), McKean (8.1%), Pike (24.3%), Schuylkill (10.5%), Somerset (11.2%), Susquehanna (13.4%), Tioga (9.8%), Venango (10.6%), Warren (11.1%), Washington (10%), Wayne (15%), Westmoreland (16%) and Wyoming (10.3%).

In 2020, 26 percent of Commonwealth residents lived in rural counties, compared with an estimated 24 percent in 2050. A 2 percent net change in the urban-rural mix is equivalent to a nearly 600,000-person shift between rural and urban county population over the next 30 years. 

“These projections reveal significant population and demographic changes forthcoming in Pennsylvania, and it is more important now than ever, to start the discussion on long-term solutions to not only preserve and sustain rural areas in the Commonwealth, but also help them to thrive,” said Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Chair of the Center's Board.

“The Center’s population projections present already familiar challenges for our rural areas,” said Center for Rural Pennsylvania Executive Director, Dr. Kyle Kopko. “With the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation, coupled with fewer young people in our rural communities, these projections suggest significant economic and workforce pressures are on the horizon.”

“The Center takes seriously its responsibility in providing statewide research, community outreach, and policy considerations to help inform the General Assembly and rural communities,” said Sen. Yaw. “These projections are key to taking proactive steps for our rural communities. As chairman of the Center’s Board of Directors, I will continue to support the Center’s research efforts and ensure that these projections serve as a tool to ensure the long-term resiliency of rural Pennsylvania.”

Click Here to read the reportClick Here for the complete announcement.

Economic Policies Not Working

As Sen. Yaw pointed out, “it is more important now than ever, to start the discussion on long-term solutions to not only preserve and sustain rural areas in the Commonwealth, but also help them to thrive.”

Double digit declines are expected in the two counties experiencing the most shale gas development in the state-- Susquehanna (#1) and Washington (#2).

In areas of the most conventional oil and gas drilling, significant population reductions are also projected-- Cameron (9.7%),, Elk (15.4%), Forest (19.7%), Indiana (10.9%), McKean (8.1%), Tioga (9.8%), Venango (10.6%) and Warren (11.1%).

Most of the 41 counties projected to experience population declines happen to overlap with the conventional and unconventional oil and gas producing counties in the state.

Reports by groups like the Ohio River Valley Institute have demonstrated Pennsylvania’s natural gas economy has failed to stem or even reduce job and population losses in rural counties where the gas industry is most prevalent.  Read more here.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania population projections are just the most recent proof, despite frequent shale gas industry reports of how significant their economic contribution is.  Read more here.

As DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said recently, “People can choose where they want to live, and they can pick somewhere where they can raise their kids and go out on a trail and where they have quality of life and an authentic experience where the water's clean and safe, where food is local. 

“And Pennsylvania really stands to gain from the fact that we've protected the natural resources of our land and kept our sense of place."  Read more here.

The fact is agriculture and outdoor recreation are Pennsylvania’s biggest industries and they both depend on a clean environment.

The recent creation of the Pennsylvania Office of Outdoor Recreation to focus state policies on growing the state’s outdoor sector charts a new direction to support an economic sector that adds $14 billion annually to the state’s economy and accounts for 152,000 jobs.  Read more here.

Recent state initiatives are also helping to expand the future of Pennsylvania’s agricultural sector that contributes $132 billion annually to the economy and supports more than 580,000 jobs.  Read more here.

Pennsylvania’s clean energy economy is also growing significantly, growing by over 30 percent to 92.700 jobs since 2020.  Read more here.

Let’s start the discussion.

(Maps: Center for Rural PA population projects; FracTracker Alliance oil and gas well map of PA.)

NewsClips - Center Study:

-- TribLive: At 16%, Westmoreland County Tops Local Population Loss Estimates  

-- Post-Gazette: Study: Westmoreland County Will Lead Population Decline In Western PA, While Others Will Boom

-- PA Capital-Star: Population Projections Highlight Need For Long-Term Solutions To Sustain Rural PA Communities; Population Expected To Shrink By 5.8% 

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Sept. 30 to Oct. 6 -- Company Tries To Limit DEP Investigation; Unauthorized Water Withdrawals; Can’t Pay For Reno Cleanup; Venting Gas Wells; More Abandoned Conventional Wells  [PaEN] 

        -- Repsol Gas USA Issued Violation For Denying DEP Right To Document Damaged Shale Gas Well Casing During Investigation Of Uncontrolled Gas Venting In Bradford County  [PaEN]

        -- DEP Issues Violation To CNX Gas Company For Unauthorized Water Withdrawals For 17 Days From Beaver Run Reservoir In Westmoreland County  [PaEN]

        -- Petro Erie Inc. Again Claims It Lacks The Financial Ability To Comply With DEP’s 2nd Order To Cleanup Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Spill That Contaminated The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply In Venango County  [PaEN]

        -- Environmental Hearing Board Will Hear Key Arguments On Appeal By A Washington County Family Alleging Shale Gas Drilling Contaminated Their Water Supply With PFAS And Other Chemicals  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - October 7   [PaEN]

        -- DEP Invites Comments On PA General Energy Constructing 3 Shale Natural Gas, Water Pipelines Thru Exceptional Value, High Quality, Wild Trout Streams In Lycoming County  [PaEN] 

        -- DEP Now Accepting Comments On 2 Proposed Olympus Energy Water Withdrawal Structures At Beaver Run Reservoir To Support Shale Gas Development In Westmoreland County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 69 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In October 7 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  

NewsClips This Week - Shale Gas:

-- WPXI: Activists, Washington County Residents Concerned After Study Explores Link Between Natural Gas Development, Cancer

-- Orphan Conventional Oil & Gas Wells Hard To Plug, Despite Influx Of Federal Dollars In PA, OH

-- JD Supra: Repurposing Oil & Gas Wells For Ground-Sourced Heat Energy In PA Raises Multiple Legal Issues

-- AP: PA Chocolate Factory Fined For Failing To Evacuate Before Fatal Natural Gas Explosion

-- TribLive: Car Rally Held To Raise Money For Rustic Ridge Families Impacted By Home Explosion, Fires In Allegheny County

-- Forbes: How One Contrarian Company [Mostly Conventional Oil & Gas Well Owner Diversified Energy] Thrives In A Shale And Gas World  [Check The Company’s Compliance Record In PA ]

-- WOSU: The State Of Natural Gas Development/Fracking In Ohio 

-- Observer-Reporter: DEP Secretary To Be Featured Speaker At Washington & Jefferson Hydrogen Seminar

-- TribLive: Columbia Gas Tests Hydrogen Blends In Natural Gas Appliances

-- Reuters: Equitrans Reaches Agreement With US Regulator For Mountain Valley Pipeline For Inspections, Integrity Testing, Among Other Measures

Related Articles This Week:

-- House Unanimously Passes Bill Against Lawsuits Aimed At Silencing Citizen Critics And Dampening Public Participation  [PaEN]

-- Dickinson College Environmental & Indigenous Rights Honoree Tara Houska: Don’t Disconnect Yourself From The Reality Of Nature; Endless Expansion Of Pipelines Have No Place In Reality; Find Powerful Moments Of Joy  [PaEN]

-- DEP Updates Location Of Scranton Public Hearing On Interim Final Environmental Justice Permit Review Policy  [PaEN]

-- Member Of Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group Briefs DCNR Advisory Council On Siting Of Shale Gas Well Pad On State Forest Land To Accommodate Taking Gas From Private Land In Tioga County  [PaEN]

-- Agencies Celebrate Eastern Hellbender License Plate Recognizing PA’s Clean Water Ambassador; Shale Gas Development On DCNR Land Threatens Habitat  [PaEN]

-- DCNR Announces Appointment Of Seth Cassell As Pennsylvania's 18th State Forester  [PaEN]

-- The Allegheny Front: Three Rivers Waterkeeper Citizen Monitoring Finds Plastics Maker Styrenics LLC Discharging Plastic Nurdles Into Ohio River, Threatens Lawsuit To Stop Them  - By Reid Frazier  [PaEN]

-- PUC: Focus Of Natural Gas Explosion In Port Richmond Section Of Philadelphia Now Inside The Buildings  [PaEN]

-- Center For Rural Pennsylvania: Rural Population To Shrink 5.8%; Fewer Young People, More Older People; Current Policies Failed To Sustain Communities, Ensure Long-Term Rural Resiliency  [PaEN]

-- PA Interfaith Power & Light 10th Annual Conference- No Faith In Fossil Fuels - Nov. 5: Virtual Keynote & Panel Discussion, 5 Regional Workshop Locations  [PaEN]

-- Washington & Jefferson College Hosts Oct. 17 In-Person Harnessing Hydrogen: Exploring Local & Regional Opportunities In Appalachia Program  [PaEN]

[Posted: October 5, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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