By David Spigelmyer
Gov. Wolf recently shared some encouraging insights on Pennsylvania’s energy future. “The shale gas resources in the Appalachian Basin represent enormous economic opportunity,” he said in a news release announcing efforts aimed at attracting more manufacturing to the commonwealth.
If only the governor’s policies matched his rhetoric, which continues to threaten the positive progress those resources are enabling for Pennsylvanians.
We couldn’t agree more with the governor’s words – abundant, affordable, and clean-burning natural gas is a winner. Consumers, manufacturers, power generators, and our environment all benefit from the commonwealth’s energy abundance, affordability, and use.
With natural gas, Pennsylvania is making things again. Natural gas and associated byproducts such as ethane are the key feed stocks in the plastics manufacturing process. We are on the cusp of a Rust Belt revival, as petrochemical manufacturers – using processes that turn raw materials into the plastic for every imaginable product – are capitalizing on Pennsylvania’s energy advantage to locate, expand, and create new jobs here in the commonwealth.
Underscoring the strength of Pennsylvania’s resource base and the attractiveness of investing here, a new report found operating a petrochemical manufacturing facility in the Appalachian Basin will be four times as profitable as a similar project along the Gulf Coast.
Consider the rebirth of Delaware County’s Marcus Hook as a natural gas liquids hub and the multibillion-dollar Shell ethane cracker in Beaver County – employing 6,000 construction workers over a multi-year period – as two concrete examples of the potential to fundamentally reshape our near- and long-term manufacturing outlook.
As Pennsylvania realizes downstream manufacturing jobs tied to natural gas development – jobs critical to a strong, growing middle class – it makes sense for Gov. Wolf, as he said last week, to do “everything we can to support additional development.”
Unfortunately, those supportive comments far too often are in conflict with the governor’s policies – and that’s a disappointing reality for so many hard-working Pennsylvanians counting on a manufacturing comeback.
To compete, manufacturers need reliable access to affordable natural gas, but the Wolf administration continues to push misguided policies that choke production and undercut Pennsylvania’s ability to attract investment that unlocks our energy resources.
Immediately upon taking office, for example, the governor banned new natural gas development in state parks and forests – cutting back production and a key revenue-generating source. Three years later, he supports a ban on safe natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin – a move that’s not grounded in science and amounts to an unconstitutional taking of private property rights.
Results from the Susquehanna River Basin’s water monitors, where hundreds of hydraulically fractured wells are safely producing clean natural gas, show no change in the quality or quantity of the river since drilling began. What’s more, during a recent hearing Pennsylvania’s top environmental regulator told state lawmakers that we have “very good oil and gas regulations.”
The development bans have coincided with annual attempts at enacting a massive energy tax increase. Combined with additional, unnecessary regulations, and chronic permitting delays that have gotten worse under the Wolf administration, the commonwealth continues its backward slide in the competition for job-creating capital investment.
It’s time for policies that match Wolf’s words of encouragement.
Pennsylvania’s economic and environmental outlook is increasingly bright with local, clean, job-creating natural gas. Like all Pennsylvanians, though, we’re looking to Harrisburg for action on commonsense, pro-growth policies that will move our economy forward, not empty talking points and hollow rhetoric.
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