Pennsylvania Must Remain Competitive

State lawmakers will soon start assembling a new spending plan after hearing Gov. Wolf’s thoughts on his budget priorities. It’s a chance for our leaders to enact policies that Pennsylvanians have made clear they want to see: job-creating opportunities that encourage investment and make the Commonwealth more competitive.

It’s a message voters sent in November, and that’s reflected in a recent National Association of Manufacturers poll, which found a bipartisan, overwhelming 85 percent of the state’s voters support increased investment in energy infrastructure.

Those investments bring jobs, boost our energy security and make U.S. manufacturing more competitive. We’re seeing it in the Philadelphia area, where last week Sunoco Logistics announced it will bring 20 more high-paying to its Marcus Hook complex where ethane and butane from the Marcellus Shale is being processed.

“The influx of natural resources into Sunoco Logistics has created the demand for these new jobs and this energy economy,” Delaware County Councilman David White said. “This is great news for Delaware County’s economy. Every new job that we create in this industrial complex is a step forward, reaching the county’s full economic potential.”

We’re seeing it in the Pittsburgh area, where natural gas development has allowed Pittsburgh International Airport to compete on a global scale, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told KDKA Radio recently.

“It saved the airport. And I don’t overstate that when I say that,” Fitzgerald said. “We would have never gotten someone like (CEO) Christina Cassotis to come in. We would have never gotten these airlines to come in. Three times we’ve been able to lower the on-flight per-passenger and gate fees. We’ve had four upgrades to the bond rating. We have economic development opportunities coming in.”

And more of those benefits are on the way as major pipeline projects that will connect Pennsylvania-produced natural gas with more consumers nationwide are finally moving forward. Last week federal regulators gave final approval to the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline that will deliver natural gas to the Eastern Seaboard, the Rover pipeline that will ship natural gas to the Midwest, and the Northern Access pipeline heading into New York.

“Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project is a nearly $3 billion investment that will encourage continued production of natural gas in the shale regions and investment in manufacturing throughout Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry CEO Gene Barr said. “This project is among the largest private investments of capital ever made in this state and will support thousands of family-sustaining jobs during construction – many of them in blue-collar trade and manufacturing sectors – and hundreds of long-term jobs once operational.”

It’s a time of optimism for Pennsylvanians, as our lawmakers can seize the opportunity that development of affordable and abundant natural gas presents. The MSC’s Dave Spigelmyer outlined this approach in a recent column in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“State leaders have a clear choice: Enact voter-supported, commonsense policies that encourage job-creating investment and growth through the production and expanded use of natural gas, or pursue even higher taxes on top of burdensome regulations that will shortchange the commonwealth’s potential.”

We simply cannot afford policies that make Pennsylvania less competitive. The Commonwealth already lags behind energy-producing states such as Texas, Ohio, and Louisiana, which were in the Top 10 of Site Selection Magazine’s list of states with the best business climate. Pennsylvania did not rank in the top half.

Even as the market improves for our industry and drilling rigs return to the Commonwealth, competition for investment dollars is increasing and companies are looking at other shale plays like the Permian Basin in Texas.

“We could easily see an extra 100 rigs out here in the Permian by June,” Josh Clawson of contractor Gesco, told Reuters last week.

We’re also in a competition for job-creating capital regionally. In West Virginia, for example, leaders in the state legislature recognize this and are actively working to make their state more attractive for job creation and energy development. In fact, state senate president Mitch Carmichael told the Exponent-Telegram over the weekend:

“We want to ensure that the executive branch or some bureaucrat does not implement a regulatory scheme that has never been voted upon by the Legislature or the people of West Virginia.”

It’s imperative that lawmakers make Pennsylvania more attractive for investment that can create good-paying jobs, lower energy bills and community benefits to the entire Commonwealth. As Dave Spigelmyer wrote in the Inquirer:

“Commonsense policies that encourage investment and job creation will move the state forward. All Pennsylvanians stand to benefit from this generational opportunity.”

As the Tribune-Review recently wrote in an editorial, even higher energy taxes are “a surefire way to debilitate Pennsylvania’s shale-gas industry. Always a bad idea, a severance tax is an even worse idea this time around.”