FILE - PA Donald Trump 8-13-2019

President Donald Trump addresses an audience of workers during a visit Aug. 13, 2019, to the Shell Petrochemical Complex currently under construction in Monaca, Pennsylvania.

During a visit to a petrochemical complex being built in Monaca, Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump on Tuesday sought to make the case that without Republican leadership, the plant that will support hundreds of jobs would never have existed.

“When completed, this facility will transform abundant natural gas – and we have a lot of it – fracked from Pennsylvania wells, which they never would have allowed you to take if I weren't president,” Trump said during the visit to the Shell facility in Beaver County. “If my opponent won, … they would have never gotten the approvals to do what's needed to fuel these plants.”

In a speech that featured many of the president’s common themes, such as lamenting poor coverage by the national news media and issuing barbs at his political rivals, Trump returned frequently to the idea that Pennsylvania’s willingness to embrace natural gas, oil and coal extraction were the keys to economic growth in the state.

The president contrasted Pennsylvania’s relatively robust economy against that of neighbor New York state, which has banned hydraulic fracturing – also known as fracking – and has seen a significant population outflow in recent years.

“Most states have vast energy reserves, but New York prohibits development while Pennsylvania welcomes it,” Trump said. “From 2010 to 2017, natural gas production plummeted by nearly 70 percent in New York, but it soared almost 1,000 percent in Pennsylvania, and New York won't allow us to build a pipeline across.”

The president went on to note that the New England states are seeing higher energy prices compared to the rest of the country, blaming it on New York’s unwillingness to allow pipelines that would connect up with existing lines in Pennsylvania.

“As a result, families in Pennsylvania's shale country got more jobs, billions of dollars in royalty payments and wages that are significantly higher, compared to their neighbors just across the state line,” he said.

Trump’s visit and message were welcomed by the industry group Shale Crescent USA, which enthused about the potential for even more development in Pennsylvania.

“The President’s visit showcases Appalachia’s viability as a petrochemical hub by recognizing the significance of Shell’s new cracker plant as a first, great step forward for the region,” said Wally Kandel, co-founder of Shale Crescent USA. “The region stands to benefit economically from these industries for generations. The supply is here, the demand is here, and its limitless potential is why today, President Trump is here.”

But others were not so complimentary. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party put out a statement in advance of the visit calling the president’s policies a “tacky lie.”

“Only a fool would come into this community, in the midst of a massive economic setback, to gloat about how great things are going. Sadly, Donald Trump is just such a fool," Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills said. "He emphatically promised that not a single plant would close on his watch, but we've seen business after business take their tax cuts and run, leaving workers in the lurch."

To bolster its perspective, the Democrats pointed to the recent announcement that the Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, located seven miles from the site of Tuesday’s speech, will be closing in the fall.

But to the president, Pennsylvania’s energy sector is a key part of his economic strategy for the nation, one that he argued would continue to lead to strong growth for years to come.

“We're pursuing a future not only of energy independence – but not just words, you know, you've been hearing energy independence for years and years – we have real independence,” Trump said. “But what we want now is not independence, we want American energy dominance, dominance. Instead of relying on foreign countries, we are now relying on American producers. And we are relying on American workers to build our own future, right here on American soil.”

Regional Editor

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.