OP-ED: Natural gas powering our county and beyond

Natural gas. It’s been a driving force in our region. A game changer for our county. In fact, Washington County is leading the commonwealth’s natural gas production. The industry has brought jobs and opportunities to our county – revitalizing small towns and communities in the process. And yet, politicians from other regions of the state continue to try and restrict natural gas production in the commonwealth. It’s ironic since these same politicians represent regions that also receive the benefits of natural gas via affordable, reliable energy and impact fee revenues.

We know firsthand the power of natural gas. We see it everyday in the jobs it provides for our neighbors, the downstream business opportunities that have been created to support the industry and the community projects that have been funded via the impact fee.

In fact, this year, Washington County had the distinction of being the top impact fee receiver. Thanks to the prolific natural gas reserves under our feet and our state’s unique system for taxing the industry, our county received more than $7 million just this year to reinvest into our local communities. Since the impact fee was enacted Washington County has been the beneficiary of more than $65 million. Over the years the impact fee dollars have funded numerous projects, including the courthouse restoration, public safety initiatives and infrastructure upgrades.

In addition to the local benefits we see from a thriving natural gas industry, there are state and national advantages as well. Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom has cemented the commonwealth’s role as an energy leader. We are the second highest natural gas producing state – ranking just behind Texas. Natural gas has bolstered our state’s diverse energy portfolio. Our vast natural gas reserves bring stability to our electrical grid (which just happens to be the largest grid in the country). What does this mean for residents? Reliable and affordable energy.

Natural gas also plays a role in our national security. As we have seen with Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, it can be very dangerous to have an over-reliance on one country to supply another country’s energy needs. As the conflict rages on, Russia has used its natural gas resources (which many European countries rely on) as a weapon of war, cutting off supplies to countries that disagree on the invasion. This has led to an energy crisis for many countries that are bracing for a long, cold winter. The less we have to depend on foreign energy sources, the better. Energy independence is a key component to our national security.

Our natural gas can help not only our country, but also our allies lessen their dependence on Russian energy resources. But in order to do that, we need to invest in infrastructure like pipelines to get the gas to market. Pipelines are a safe delivery mechanism. Pipeline infrastructure is not a new concept – in fact – there are hundreds of miles of pipeline already crisscrossing throughout the commonwealth. But if we are going to get our natural gas to states in New England – which previously have had to rely on natural gas from Russia due to a lack of interstate pipeline – then we need our federal officials to push for regulatory and permitting reform and infrastructure funding on the federal level.

Given all the benefits that natural gas can provide, it is mind boggling that there are elected officials in this commonwealth who are trying to block the industry from operating effectively and efficiently and reaching its full potential here in Pennsylvania. Natural gas is an important key to our future. Through it and because of it, we are a leader in energy and innovation. Natural gas is literally powering Pennsylvania forward.

Diana Irey Vaughan is chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

Author: Diana Irey Vaughan
Publication: Observer Reporter
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