Commentary: Pipelines are key to Pa’s energy future

December 14, 2016

The following column is by David Spigelmyer, president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition.

If there is one issue which Americans can rally around after a contentious and hard-fought political season, it’s the dire need to grow jobs and improve our nation’s infrastructure.
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As the second-largest natural gas producer in the nation, Pennsylvania has played a key role in the American energy revolution.

But we need to act swiftly and decisively to ensure that critical infrastructure is modernized and enhanced so we don’t lose many of the competitive gains we’ve achieved in the global marketplace.

We also must make sure the steps we have taken regarding our energy security are not compromised.

We must move forward on pipeline projects, new power generation facilities, upgrades to electric and gas transmission systems and liquids processing projects if we are to keep pace with our energy revolution.
Failure to do so jeopardizes jobs and opportunities for local small- and medium-sized businesses that employ tens of thousands of hard-working Americans, many of whom call Pennsylvania home.

We know in every corner of the commonwealth that shale gas is already providing benefits.

It has created tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. Natural gas producers have paid more than $1.04 billion in taxes over the past four years benefitting our local communities and statewide environmental initiatives.

It’s also saving consumers, families and manufacturers thousands of dollars in energy costs; $1,200 per household in 2012; with projections those savings will exceed $3,500 per year by 2025, according to global consultancy IHS.

But the key to continued growth and prosperity is to remain competitive and make Pennsylvania an attractive place to invest capital so everyone benefits.

Pipelines are a key component to that equation. They are undeniably the safest means to transport oil and natural gas products.

The Marcellus and Utica basins have the potential to be the most productive shale gas resources in the world.

But the lack of necessary infrastructure to move this gas to market continues to depress wellhead prices that producers receive.

In fact, due to a lack of needed pipeline infrastructure, Pennsylvania producers and landowners continue to receive more than 60 percent less for their natural gas than producers receive in other basins across the country.

This massive differential drives away capital investment from Pennsylvania, and with it, the jobs that our residents need.

Policies at the federal level could make those other shale plays more attractive.

Conversely, policies at the state level – excessive taxes, onerous regulations and succumbing to slowdowns in infrastructure development – can only make Pennsylvania a less attractive place to invest.

Manufacturers are poised to take advantage of those lower energy costs as companies invest billions of dollars in facilities such as the Shell petrochemical plant now under construction in Beaver County – the largest project that industry has undertaken in the commonwealth since World War II.

This facility alone will generate more than 6,000 jobs for skilled workers over several years and directly employ more than 600 once completed.

It is no hyperbole to proffer that the Shell “cracker” plant could play a major role in revitalizing the entire Northeast manufacturing region, sparking a rebirth in manufacturing in a region that has been struggling over the past four decades.

Shale gas deliveries have also transformed a refinery at Marcus Hook in eastern Pennsylvania into a burgeoning complex that will employ hundreds more workers when a second multibillion-dollar pipeline supplying it is finished by Sunoco Logistics.

Indeed, there is a cost to such development. But investing in America’s future will pay dividends, especially as the game-changing potential of domestic energy is unleashed. There is a much greater return on investment for all by building the market demand through pipeline infrastructure.

Improving our nation’s infrastructure is not a red state or blue state issue. It’s an American issue that promotes safety, energy security and economic prosperity. These are values that everyone can rally behind.

Join me in urging our leaders to redouble their focus and commitment to moving these critical projects, and our nation, forward.