MSC in PennLive: Pa.’s future depends on the continued growth, diversification of its energy portfolio

By Gene Barr, David Spigelmyer and David N. Taylor

As we kick off the legislative session and look ahead to Governor Wolf’s budget address, there are many challenges facing our divided government. And yet, there is common ground that transcends party lines and regional boundaries.

From Erie to Philadelphia, Pennsylvanians support strong economic growth, steady job opportunities and a healthy environment.

Clean, abundant natural gas presents a generational opportunity that the Commonwealth can harness for the good of all Pennsylvanians. Not a red or blue issue, the safe production and reliability of affordable energy is an area where we can all agree.

With the right pro-growth policies in place that drive energy-sector investment, Pennsylvania is poised to realize 100,000 new jobs and $60 billion in gross domestic product growth over the next 10 years, according to “Forge the Future,” an economic analysis by McKinsey & Co.

Across the board, in fact, Americans overwhelmingly back energy development and infrastructure modernization, according to a recent national survey by Harris Polling, with 78 percent of voters supporting the increased production of domestic oil and natural gas.

Pennsylvania’s diverse energy portfolio puts the Commonwealth at the forefront of the country’s energy revolution and uniquely positions the state for economic growth. Thanks to natural gas, we are welcoming a wave of manufacturing expansion and union halls are at full employment. Consumers, too, are realizing significant home energy savings, and all this while we are benefiting from unprecedented air quality improvements.

Focusing on policies that make Pennsylvania more attractive for continued investment and don’t interfere with free market growth will be crucial to maximizing shale’s shared benefits for all — more jobs, consumer energy savings, cleaner air and a regional manufacturing rebirth that could pay dividends for generations.

Despite these shared benefits, however, we have seen attempts to eclipse opportunity with politics.

Higher and additional energy taxes levied on top of the impact fee – Pennsylvania’s special natural gas tax that’s on track to generate nearly $1.7 billion since 2012 – jeopardizes jobs and undercuts our ability to attract continued investment. What’s more, Pennsylvania consumers – from families to small businesses – would pay for this political maneuver through higher energy bills.

Meanwhile, extreme environmental activism motivated by the radical “Keep It in the Ground” movement is slowing important energy infrastructure modernization and the economic uplift that comes with it. Delays in pipeline construction have cost our nation more than 728,000 jobs, $20 billion in tax revenue and $90 billion in economic activity, according to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report.

Infrastructure expansion is fundamental to safely meeting growing consumer and manufacturing energy demand. Regional pipeline constraints caused southeastern Pennsylvania to miss a significant polypropylene manufacturing investment in 2017. As a result, the region lost out on more than one billion dollars in economic activity and one thousand new, good-paying jobs, according to a Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association report.

These are troubling trends that need to change.

With local, clean, job-creating natural gas, the Commonwealth’s economic and environmental outlook is increasingly bright. This year, we’re looking to Harrisburg for action on commonsense, pro-growth policies that will move our economy and environment forward for all Pennsylvanians.

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

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