By David Spigelmyer
After a challenging 2016, we’re beginning to see signs of a fragile energy market recovery.
With efforts at the federal level to reform taxes and reduce bureaucratic red tape, states are engaged in a fierce competition for capital and job-creating investment resources. Energy-producing states have an advantage if they have the right policies in place and many are in overdrive, working to strengthen their business climates to win investments that will lead to more jobs and economic growth.
Pennsylvania must either commit to compete or resign to lose in the effort to attract job-creating capital investment. Losing cannot be an acceptable option.
Moving forward with critical energy infrastructure projects is a good place to start and key to realizing Pennsylvania’s manufacturing opportunity. According to a recent report by the research and consulting company IHS — which was commissioned by the Wolf administration — Pennsylvania’s abundant shale resources present a multibillion-dollar opportunity to transform the state into a national petrochemical manufacturing leader.
Realizing that full manufacturing opportunity, as IHS notes, requires more regulatory certainty and predictability at the state level.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is falling behind and will continue to miss out if we don’t get out of our own way. From permitting logjams, to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed energy tax increase, to a regulatory onslaught, the state loses out on opportunities to attract investment capital, create jobs and seize new business growth.
As the Associated Press recently reported, the state Department of Environmental Protection has delayed action on some permits needed to develop natural gas resources. Not only are delays rising, but in some instances, it takes more than a year to receive a permit that should only take a few weeks to review and process.
Permitting delays, coupled with new burdensome regulations and permit proposals, raise the cost of doing business in an already high-cost environment. Pennsylvania’s web of bureaucracy drives investment to other, more-competitive locations across the country and the world.
On top of this, the Wolf administration continues to pursue a massive energy tax increase suggesting that companies do not factor the cost to operate as part of their investment decisions. This is simply not true and disregards economic reality.
Pennsylvania has a unique tax on natural gas, called the impact fee, which has generated more than $1 billion for communities. Encouraging tax increases on Pennsylvania businesses and industries while selectively wooing other companies with incentives and grants is a misguided and dangerous approach that will cost Pennsylvania jobs and long-term economic opportunities.
We must recognize that we cannot tax job creators into investing here.
Policies reflect priorities and our priorities must be to grow jobs, increase natural gas use and advance initiatives that welcome — rather than discourage — investment.
Pennsylvania sits atop one of the world’s largest natural gas resources in the world. With our energy advantage, we have the potential to kick-start manufacturing and create job opportunities for generations.
It’s time to focus on creating a competitive tax and regulatory environment that encourages investment, growth and job creation. To borrow a phrase from Wolf, we need “a government that works,” to ensure we maximize these opportunities for every Pennsylvanian.
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