Top Labor Union Leader: “Couldn’t be a Worse Time for Higher Energy Taxes”

Shale development has been a boon for Pennsylvania’s economy – from consumer savings to good-paying union jobs, natural gas is delivering economic and environmental benefits throughout the Commonwealth.

In a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column, Jim Kunz of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66 writes that the shale industry has been a “godsend” for his 7,000-member union:

“Less than a decade ago, our union faced a bleak outlook during one of the deepest and most painful economic downturns in a generation. Confronted with double-digit unemployment due to sharp cutbacks in construction and infrastructure projects, job opportunities for our nearly 7,000-member Pittsburgh-based union grew increasingly hard to come by. You can imagine the anxiety and pressure on families caused by that economic uncertainty.

“For many in our union — myself included — we didn’t know what, if anything, would get us out of this extraordinary ditch. But, as our unemployment rate continued to hover at nearly 10 percent, the shale industry took off, creating new employment opportunities across its supply chain.

“The natural-gas industry has been a godsend, helping to boost jobs with family-supporting pay and good benefits. Our hardworking and proud union members are very fortunate for the opportunities afforded by shale as well as the manufacturing and consumer-savings benefits tied to this historic energy revolution.”

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Echoing Kunz, the Laborers’ International Union of North America’s (LiUNA) Dennis Martire writes in a recent Delaware County Times column that the shale industry is “lifeline to family-supporting jobs” for the union’s more than 25,000 Pa. members.

“Across Pa., development of the shale industry has become a new economic engine for our state, supporting energy infrastructure projects that have brought new opportunity to thousands of residents, and increased the energy independence of our entire country. Increasingly, new pipeline projects are delivering both short-term employment benefits from construction, and long-term economic benefits from increased access to affordable natural gas and natural gas liquids.

“These new projects generate the kind of jobs that put our state back to work — good family-wage jobs that represent the economic future for many communities across Pa. For the more than 25,000 members of the LiUNA in Pa., and thousands of other workers across our state, these projects are not just pipelines. They are also a lifeline to family-supporting jobs.”

And both union leaders share a common concern — higher energy taxes will erode shale’s job-creating and middle-class benefits. To be sure, enacting the highest-in-the-nation energy tax will lead to even further reductions in investment and jeopardize good union jobs. And with the energy industry facing an increasingly difficult market, which has led to tens of thousands of layoffs, our labor leaders are right: “There could not be a worse time for an excessively higher energy tax.

Kunz writes:

“We have deep concerns about proposals to increase energy taxes, especially given the sharp slowdown of industry work and investment following the global collapse of crude oil prices over the past 10 months, as well as the persistently depressed regional natural gas markets.

“We know that Pa.’s abundant natural gas reserves aren’t going anywhere, but it’s the investment necessary to develop those resources that can, does and will move elsewhere if tax policies are enacted that discourage investment here. And while energy companies can move their dollars elsewhere, thousands of union families across our region don’t have that luxury.”

Adds Martire:

“We do have significant concerns about any new natural gas tax that could have a negative impact on employment in the industry. We have already seen a reduction in pipeline man-hours over the past two years related to falling natural gas prices. If we excessively tax the shale industry, we risk hurting employers, workers and communities across the state.”

Shale is a generational opportunity that could be squandered with even higher energy taxes. Become a United Shale Advocate today and join the thousands of other Pennsylvanians who support new jobs, not even higher energy taxes. And be sure to engage in the online debate to ensure your voice is heard: #ShaleTaxFacts & #SayNoToSeverance.