MSC in Delaware Co. Daily-Times: Why we need to expand gas production in Pa.

Imagine a situation where America had all of the cars, trains, and planes to transport our people, goods and services but lacked the necessary infrastructure to fully capitalize on this job-creating potential.

While farfetched, this analogy reflects Pennsylvania’s current natural gas infrastructure network. Considerable progress certainly has been made, but to fully capitalize on our region’s abundant, clean-burning natural gas resources we must remain laser-focused on safely expanding the critical pipeline infrastructure – with projects like PennEast, Mariner East II, Atlantic Sunrise, Constitution, Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, as well as many others — needed to deliver affordable, clean energy to consumers, families and manufacturers, as well as allies abroad.

America’s shale revolution continues to safely and responsibly unlock an abundance of previously unreachable oil and natural gas reserves. Thanks to cutting-edge technological advancements in horizontal drilling, the Commonwealth is producing record amounts of clean, homegrown natural gas that’s creating considerable energy savings for families and small businesses, reigniting our manufacturing base, and dramatically enhancing air quality.

As the nation’s second largest natural gas producer, Pennsylvania is at the heart of this historic energy revolution that is strengthening America. There’s no question that these are challenging times for our industry, as global commodity markets remain turbulent and unpredictable. Yet, our industry is focused on the task at hand – safely delivering the energy we need to grow our economy. In fact, Pennsylvania natural gas production soared 318 percent since 2011 with operators producing enough natural gas to power 62 million homes annually, according to recent state data.

And as the federal Energy Information Administration recently reported, thanks to this positive progress, the United States can now meet its growing domestic energy demand while transforming into a nation that exports more natural gas than it imports, strengthening our geopolitical hand abroad while reducing U.S. CO2 emissions to a 25-year low. Indeed natural gas is the primary driver to reduce carbon emissions globally.

But to fully realize shale’s economic and environmental benefits, pipeline modernization and expansion is mission critical. Just as cars and trains need roads and tracks, Pennsylvania needs a strong, reliable infrastructure network to connect consumers, manufacturers, and power generators with our abundant energy resources.

To be sure, pipelines are the absolute safest and most effective way to transport natural gas.

This continued infrastructure growth will directly boost Pennsylvania’s economy by creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, especially for the region’s talented and hardworking union and building trades members. Sunoco’s Mariner East II project – which represents a nearly $3 billion investment – will support 30,000 good-paying jobs during construction, and will further advance the manufacturing turnaround at the once-shuttered Marcus Hook industrial complex along the Delaware River.

That’s why Dennis Martire of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, one the nation’s largest unions, has called natural gas development and pipeline projects a “lifeline” that’s “a new economic engine for our state, bringing new opportunity to thousands of residents, and increasing the energy independence of our entire country.”

And hard-working Pennsylvania families directly benefit from these pipeline projects in the form of energy savings too. If the PennEast pipeline had been in place during the brutally cold 2013-2014 winter, for example, Pennsylvania and New Jersey consumers could have saved as much as $893 million.

As the North America’s Building Trades Union president Sean McGarvey said, “our leaders must continue to support domestic energy exploration” because it’s “our nation’s strongest job-growth engine.”

Mr. McGarvey is absolutely right. To continue to affordably and reliably meet Pennsylvania’s – and our nation’s – growing energy needs, we must ensure that the Commonwealth’s natural gas infrastructure network safely expands.

David Spigelmyer is president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. Visit MarcellusCoalition.org to learn more.

NOTE: Click HERE to view this column online.