MSC in Observer-Reporter: America cannot afford to ‘keep it in the ground’

By David Spigelmyer and Gene Barr

Infrastructure is the framework upon which our lives are built. Whether it’s the roads and bridges that get us where we need to go, the power grid providing around-the-clock electricity, or the pipelines connecting consumers and manufacturers to abundant, affordable oil and natural gas, today’s world depends on a modern infrastructure network.

Life would simply be unrecognizable without the energy powering today’s world.

Natural gas is a critical piece of the energy puzzle that fuels our modern economy. Pennsylvania, rich with energy resources found in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, is now the second largest natural gas producing state in the United States – the No. 1 gas producer in the world.

This energy abundance has benefitted Pennsylvanians statewide, resulting in the creation of good-paying jobs, consumer energy savings, a manufacturing revival, and a host of environmental benefits – not the least being continued and significant major improvements to air quality in cities and counties across the state and region. These improvements not only raise the quality of life in counties that meet federal air quality standards; they induce additional economic investment by virtue of the Clean Air Act’s structure, which facilitates more permitting in areas that meet federal air quality goals. With the proper infrastructure in place, these benefits can be shared throughout the nation.

Pipelines – the safest, most efficient means of delivering critical fuels – are a catalyst for growth, as businesses need a reliable supply of energy to expand, add jobs and compete globally. An investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure is an investment in a more secure future. Safe and reliable, pipelines not only deliver clean-burning affordable natural gas, but the economic growth and job opportunity that comes with it.

Major projects such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or the Mountain Valley Pipeline – which will be constructed overwhelmingly by our region’s highly skilled union trades men and women – promise dramatic economic and environmental progress by connecting customers in the southeast with access to reliable, affordable natural gas.

Despite the enormous economic growth and clean air progress created by the greater production and use of clean burning, American natural gas, some environmental activists – motivated by a radical “Keep it in the Ground” agenda to block all-natural gas projects – continue to cause frivolous delays that threaten these important advancements.

Earlier this month, for example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit refused to narrow a December order, halting construction – and the jobs that come with it – across the entire 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline route.

Obstructing new infrastructure does not eliminate the underlying reason for these projects: the growing demand for energy. Instead, it limits potential sources of energy, driving up consumer costs, stifling economic growth, and slowing environmental progress in the process.

Take New England, for example. Due to constrained natural gas infrastructure and New York’s general hostile attitude toward new pipelines, the region lacks access to Pennsylvania-produced natural gas to satisfy its need, a reality that resulted in the import of Russian liquefied natural gas last winter. This supply constraint – created by misguided political actions – forced households to rely on imported energy, while driving energy bills to among the highest in the nation.

In fact, more than $90 billion of economic growth nationwide has been lost due to environmental extremism that has blocked or delayed key energy infrastructure projects, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute report, Infrastructure Lost: Why America Cannot Afford To “Keep It In the Ground.”But more than the abstract dollar amounts that are being lost, pipeline obstruction has cost our nation some 728,000 jobs according to the analysis.

Commenting on the study, Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said “the obstruction we’re seeing from activist groups is costing our members jobs and the entire country opportunities.” O’Sullivan is right. Families, small businesses and their environment should not be denied the benefits of American natural gas.

Outside the mainstream, environmental activists ignore the overwhelmingly positive economic and environmental benefits connected to the greater use of clean, domestic natural gas. Across our nation, we have a generational opportunity to leverage our energy abundance to achieve significant economic prosperity and environmental progress.

It’s time to build the infrastructure needed to make that opportunity a reality. Energy is essential to modern life, and it should be there affordably and reliably when needed.

David Spigelmyer is president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. Gene Barr is president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

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