Game-changing natural gas needs support

As the “Keystone State,” Pennsylvania has a long history as an energy powerhouse. That distinction remains true today thanks in large part to the development of the commonwealth’s prolific natural gas reserves. As second in the nation in overall production, natural gas has been a bright spot for the state’s overall economy, providing reliable, affordable and clean energy while supporting and creating tens of thousands of jobs and reducing our country’s reliance on foreign energy sources in the process.

We’ve been seeing the positive impacts of the natural gas industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania for years. But the benefits of the industry go far beyond Pennsylvania’s borders; it’s helping to ensure our national security as well. Natural gas has helped to transform the commonwealth. Regions throughout the state that had been economically stagnant for decades are being revitalized.

In addition to natural gas industry jobs, thousands upon thousands of downstream jobs have been created. Residents throughout the Commonwealth – regardless of whether they live in drilling areas or not – have directly benefited from the industry’s presence in the state by way of the competitive impact tax, which has generated over $2 billion since it was enacted. Locally, northeastern Pennsylvania has received more than $176 million in impact tax funds, which have helped to pay for critical local projects and important environmental programs. Additionally, homeowners whose properties are above the shale play have benefited from royalty fees.

The abundance of natural gas has also led to lower energy costs for both residential and commercial consumers. According to testimony from a joint Senate hearing held last fall, a report by the Consumer Energy Alliance found that due to the commonwealth’s vast natural gas reserves, “Pennsylvania consumers had saved over $30.5 billion with lower energy prices” over a 10-year period.

Natural gas is also a key component to increasing our national security. In contrast to the United States, Europe has shied away from natural gas production, leaving consumers with higher energy costs and unreliable energy sources, in addition to an increased dependence on Russia to supply its energy needs. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is highlighting how an over reliance on foreign energy sources can have far reaching ramifications. As countries throughout Europe and beyond continue to condemn Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, Russia has attempted to utilize its energy reserves as a weapon in foreign diplomacy. Just a few weeks ago, in an attempt to circumvent economic sanctions currently being levied against the country, Russia threatened to withhold its energy supplies unless European nations agree to pay for their energy needs using the Russian currency of rubles.

These tactics may lead to long-lasting negative repercussions in the global energy market. The less dependent our country is on foreign energy sources the more stable the United States’ economy and national security will be.

It is critical that our elected officials on the local, state and federal levels support policies that support the industry and will allow the commonwealth to capitalize on the state’s prolific shale reserves. We need to promote pipeline and infrastructure development, which will lead to even greater economic growth and increase our ability to get our natural gas supplies to markets across the country.

Natural gas has been a game changer for Pennsylvania. But the industry cannot continue to flourish if it is not given the support it needs. The time to act is now.

Erick Coolidge is a county commissioner for Tioga County.

Publication: Williamsport Sun-Gazette
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