By David Spigelmyer
Across the nation this past week, business groups, trade unions and consumer advocates came together to discuss the importance of improving and expanding the critical infrastructure that powers America.
The message of National Infrastructure Week — “It’s Time to Build” — is one Pennsylvanians have known to be true for many years as the shale revolution created unprecedented opportunities from domestic energy production. It’s never been a more crucial time to heed that call to build, to ensure everyone in the commonwealth benefits from those opportunities.
Simply put, infrastructure connects families, businesses and communities together. It provides the conduit to keep the lights on, to get to work and school, to power industry and to grow. When it’s neglected, everyone’s lives and livelihoods are put at risk.
New development of our abundant and affordable supply of natural gas over the past decade has brought untold improvements to our lives in this region through huge energy savings for families, good-paying local jobs for our building trades and others, cleaner air and a resurgence in manufacturing investments. We need to improve those connections among consumers, small businesses, manufacturers and power producers to fully seize this opportunity.
The benefits are clear. Infrastructure projects create jobs. A report by global consultant ICF predicts U.S. energy infrastructure development can create more than 1 million American jobs by 2035. According to an analysis by McKinsey & Co., we could see at least 100,000 more family-supporting jobs in Pennsylvania alone with a $60 billion increase in gross domestic product from manufacturing.
Several key infrastructure projects in the commonwealth — including the PennEast and Atlantic Sunrise pipelines — will alone support more than 25,000 jobs. These are good-paying jobs, overwhelmingly filled by skilled building trade unions. That’s why unions such as LiUNA (Laborers’ International Union of North America) and others have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in new training opportunities for their members.
We know Pennsylvanians vigorously support the effort to build more projects. According to a National Association of Manufacturers survey, 85 percent of Pennsylvanians support increasing investment in energy infrastructure that creates local jobs and boosts our regional and national economies.
Pennsylvania families have seen the benefits that can be gained from better connections made possible from affordable energy, as residential electricity prices have decreased by 79 percent and home heating bills have fallen by 40 percent in the past decade, according to the University of Pennsylvania. The average family now saves $1,500 annually thanks to local production of natural gas.
Manufacturers considering further investments in the commonwealth will look for secure and reliable connections to those low-cost, abundant energy supplies. Our industry is ready to provide expanded access to more affordable natural gas supplies on safe and secure pipelines and transmission systems.
We can build the critical infrastructure needed to fully seize this opportunity if elected leaders embrace the support of such projects — and the clear benefits they deliver — instead of focusing on added taxes and other harmful policies that thwart capital investment and job growth.
This week — and every week — we need to keep working together on solutions that enable the industry to update and improve our infrastructure. There’s never been a better time to build.
David Spigelmyer is president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition.
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