Congressman Jason Altmire (D-PA 4) plans to focus his attention on creating jobs in his district when he returns to Washington D.C. in January.
"Western Pennsylvania is ahead of the game," said Altmire. "That's why we have an unemployment rate that's below the national average. There are still places that are struggling and we have work to do, but I think we are uniquely positioned to take advantages of our resources and grow in a way that the rest of the country will be a little bit jealous of."
Altmire said that he will focus on promoting the region's strong higher education opportunities, its growing private education support sector, the health care industry, and the growing Marcellus Shale industry.
"[The Marcellus Shale industry] is where the steel industry was in the 1870s, when we knew that for decades this is what was going to define our region, so we have to work to make sure we are doing it as safely and affectively as possible. We can do that, but we also have to understand that this is where the job growth is going to be in western Pennsylvania, and it's a huge opportunity for us," said Altmire.
To that end, Altmire does not think that the federal government should be regulating the industry in Pennsylvania. He would give the state preeminence over the federal government. "[T]he geography of Pennsylvania, the geology below the ground, the way that the fracking water is able to be stored… Those are uniquely local concerns, and I think that to have a one-size-fits all, top-down [standard] from the EPA is a mistake."
Altmire could face a tough primary in 2012. The congressional district map currently under consideration redraws Altmire's 4th Congressional District to include much of the area now represented by Mark Critz (D- PA 12). Both men plan to fight for the seat in April if the new lines are approved. The district would be fairly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to registration, which could lead to a difficult general election for the Democrat that emerges from the primary.