State energy, manufacturing, building trades, business leaders tout Pennsylvania natural gas

With President Joe Biden’s $3 trillion infrastructure package on the table, Pennsylvania’s top building trades, business, manufacturing, and energy leaders on Wednesday stressed how state-produced natural gas plays a pivotal role in sustaining climate progress, creating good-paying jobs, and ramping up national security.

“Thanks to America’s energy renaissance, Pennsylvania is well positioned to re-shore more manufacturing because domestic energy abundance gives us a new competitive advantage,” said Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA) President and CEO David Taylor, who was joined during the April 21 press conference by Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan; Kevin Sunday, director of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry (PA Chamber); and Tom Melcher, who is both co-chairman of Pittsburgh Works Together and business manager for the Pittsburgh Regional Building and Construction Trades Council.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Pennsylvania’s marketed natural gas production, primarily from Marcellus Shale, reached almost 7 trillion cubic feet in 2019, and the state is the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer after Texas. Also in 2019, EIA ranked Pennsylvania second in the nation after Illinois in electricity generation from nuclear power. However, Pennsylvania’s natural gas-fired power plants surpassed nuclear power as the largest provider of in-state electricity for the first time that year.

Additionally, about half of Pennsylvania households use natural gas as their primary home heating fuel, EIA reports, making the Commonwealth a natural gas powerhouse.

“Natural gas is a key input that’s driving manufacturing job growth across the region and provides the building blocks to making practically all of life’s products and goods,” Taylor said. “Natural gas is a win-win-win — for the environment, the economy, and American workers.”

Taylor also pointed out that Pennsylvania is “very well-positioned to drive further environmental improvements by serving energy-starved states in New England.” For instance, northeastern Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna County, which is the nation’s No. 1 natural gas-producing county, has been able to deliver natural gas a few hundred miles to western Connecticut and western Massachusetts, which could enable the state to displace the transmission of other energy sources like diesel generators.

And because of the nation’s natural gas abundance, Taylor said that American manufacturers — especially those essential to producing personal protective equipment, vaccine and medical supplies production — have a significant cost-advantage.

In fact, Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Callahan said that the natural gas produced in Pennsylvania already has helped make the United States a global leader in sustaining environmental progress and economic growth, and the state stands to further bolster such efforts.

“Natural gas is the clean, flexible fuel foundational to achieving domestic and global climate goals without sacrificing good-paying jobs across Appalachia,” said Callahan. “Our members are dedicated to working with leaders across all levels of government on pragmatic, commonsense energy and environment solutions.”

Melcher added that the Pittsburgh Regional Building and Trades Council’s partnership working in the state’s natural gas industry over the last 10 years “has been phenomenal” for its members, which include 62,000 tradesmen working in areas including natural gas development, pipeline infrastructure modernization, and power plant construction and operation.

“They are good, sustaining jobs for our members and their families. They are clean jobs and they are safe jobs,” Melcher said during the press conference, adding that children living in Pennsylvania don’t have to grow up and leave the state or go to college to find such good jobs. “They can stay here and get into the gas industry,” he said.

The PA Chamber’s Sunday said the organization thinks the state could lead with natural gas in growing the post-pandemic economy through private investments, innovation and supporting local businesses to create a sustainable energy supply chain.

The press conference was held ahead of the virtual White House Climate Summit being held on Thursday and Friday by President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who are hosting 40 world leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In addition to the press event, the Pennsylvania business and skilled building trades leaders sent an April 21 letter to Biden urging him to recognize the critical role domestic natural gas would play in achieving his climate, economic and national security goals.

“Make no mistake, the United States can continue to be an economic and climate leader by embracing responsible natural gas production, infrastructure, and use,” wrote Taylor, Callahan, and Melcher, along with Gene Barr, president and CEO of the PA Chamber, and Morgan O’Brien, co-chairman of Pittsburgh Works Together. “As you gather virtually with world leaders this Earth Day, we encourage your administration to promote policies reflecting the essential role American natural gas plays in this endeavor.”

The organizations, which collectively represent hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania workers, requested that the Biden administration pursue policies supporting responsible natural gas production, infrastructure development, domestic use, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports that would boost economic gains and meet global climate commitments, according to their letter, which was also sent to top White House advisors, cabinet members and Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation.

“Domestically, a clean, reliable and resilient power grid based on natural gas and renewable energy sources working together is the only technologically feasible way of affordably meeting your climate goals for a carbon-free electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050,” they wrote. “Natural gas is, and should continue to be, the key to our country’s environmental progress.”

In their letter, the labor and business leaders also stressed that the only way for America to capitalize on its energy abundance and environmental progress is through a robust infrastructure network that supports good-paying jobs in the skilled trades and broader market participation.

“New interstate pipelines and pipeline modernization and expansion projects in the Appalachian region are key to delivering energy to markets where it is needed,” they wrote. “In addition, proposed export facilities in Philadelphia and New Jersey represent major redevelopment projects that, once constructed by the local building trades, will open abundant natural gas from Pennsylvania to international markets.

“Opportunities like these demonstrate our nation’s ability to responsibly use our resources to create a cleaner and better world for us all,” wrote the leaders.

Author: Kim Riley
Publication: Pennsylvania Business Report
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