By David Spigelmyer and Jim Snell
Selfless and hardworking Americans in Delaware County producing plastic-based personal protective equipment; EMTs, doctors, nurses and medical professionals working around the clock on the pandemic’s front lines; skilled laborers supporting the safe production, transportation and generation of natural gas fired electricity. These are among the many heroes we salute this Labor Day as we begin to shared task of recovering from this historic and painful pandemic.
Some of America’s most inspiring successes have come from failure and overcoming big challenges. The American spirit rises to the occasion and pushes the boundaries of what’s achievable. And with the right focus and leadership, we all – working together – get the job done.
At this inflection point, with tens of millions of jobs shed over the year and literally countless small and family-owned businesses as well as family budgets stung by COVID’s impact, there are calmer waters beyond this economic storm.
Specifically, we – like the overwhelmingly majority of Pennsylvania voters – understand that locally-produced natural gas will continue to play an important role in helping the Commonwealth and our nation recover and bounce back even stronger.
Job-creating energy growth opportunities are enabled by Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry and skilled union trades working together. Thanks to natural gas development and the forged partnership with Pennsylvania’s skilled laborers, union halls across the commonwealth have gone from high unemployment to full employment, with apprenticeship programs filled, providing good-paying, family supporting careers for tens of thousands of working Pennsylvanians.
In southeastern Pennsylvania, we have seen the $200 million revival of Marcus Hook, where 1,200 area building trades union members are repurposing the former oil refinery into a modern energy storage and transport terminal.
Outside of Pittsburgh, construction of Shell’s ethane cracker – which will convert natural gas liquids into the building blocks for durable plastic goods – supports nearly 7,000 mostly union jobs and will support 600 high-paying permanent jobs once complete.
And most recently, thanks to a bipartisan law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, investments for new manufacturing sites that use natural gas are being finalized in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. These facilities will create hundreds of good-paying jobs across the region’s skilled union building trades.
Coming out of this pandemic, there is strong potential for an economic recovery in our region built on the foundation of low-cost energy, new and important infrastructure projects, including critical pipelines, and manufacturing.
But let’s be clear: policies matter. Just as our elected leaders in Harrisburg worked together as Democrats and Republicans to promote pro-manufacturing, pro-energy and pro-labor legislation, we expect the same efforts from our leaders in Washington, D.C. While there is widespread public support for safe, responsible natural gas development across key energy-producing states including Pennsylvania, some candidates continue to push unrealistic policies that will hurt working families and jeopardize the environmental gains we’ve made.
In fact, recent voter surveys show two-thirds of voters in those key states would be more likely to vote for candidates that support American natural gas and oil. In Pennsylvania, 60% of voters agreed with that statement.
Those candidates and elected office holders who support duplicative regulations, sweeping one-size-fits-all laws and costly mandates that pick winners and losers cannot claim they’re pro-union, pro-business or even pro-environment.
Eliminating good-paying natural gas jobs based on so-called clean energy promises is a raw deal for Pennsylvania’s working families that’s based entirely on politics and not on reality.
What’s more, laborers and skilled building trade professionals prefer to work on energy projects in the natural gas and oil sector, according to a recent nationwide survey. The career opportunities for renewable energy forms are nowhere near what they are in the natural gas sector, and domestic energy workers highly value the safety, reliable duration and compensation of natural gas-related construction jobs, the research concludes.
As Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat, has said, “the false choice is that you have to choose fracking over good climate policy.”
The senator is right. Natural gas is dramatically enhancing our environment, especially air quality, while creating good jobs and boosting America’s security.
As we celebrate Labor Day with families, friends and loved ones, and head into the election season, those in office and those seeking office must recognize the priorities of Pennsylvania voters who understand the importance of clean, American natural gas.
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