Jeff Kotula: Unleashing Pa.’s energy resources will grow economy

As the first quarter of 2023 comes to an end, the economy remains a prime concern for many Americans. It has been difficult to ignore the effects of inflation on everyday essentials, and market results have reflected this uncertainty. While the current unemployment rate is at a near 50-year low and many economists have argued that inflation is now decelerating, there are also concerns that interest rate hikes are making borrowing more expensive, thus weakening consumer spending, restricting corporate profits and slowing job growth.

Fortunately, there is an engine of economic growth and job creation in the United States that remains largely underutilized — developing our energy infrastructure for national gas production.

Pennsylvania residents understand firsthand the economic benefits of a thriving natural gas industry. It has been nearly two decades since the first well tapped the prolific Marcellus Shale in Washington County. In that time, the industry has created and supported hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs across the state. Local communities are thriving thanks to the increase in economic activity, and municipalities across the commonwealth have benefited from more than $2.2 billion in impact fee revenues — which have been utilized by local leaders to develop community projects, improve public infrastructure and preserve green space. Pennsylvania is now a global energy leader and second only to Texas when it comes to natural gas production in the United States.

Although this resource has created tremendous economic opportunities, we are still yet to realize the full impact of this engine for job creation and growth due to the lack of available pipeline infrastructure. Despite being home to the largest natural gas field in the world, the Marcellus Shale, we still do not have the infrastructure capacity in place to efficiently deliver this resource to market. In addition, our nation’s energy independence is hindered by lawsuits and regulations making it difficult to satisfy demand and presenting challenges to getting natural gas to market.

As demonstrated in Ukraine and across Europe, energy security matters. Not long ago, foreign tankers carrying natural gas were pictured in Boston Harbor because New England had been cut off from the abundant and low-cost domestic natural gas produced in Pennsylvania. This is due in part to a lack of existing infrastructure and policies in other states that spurned additional investment in new pipelines, the safest and most efficient way to transport natural gas. The resources exist in Pennsylvania to solve this problem, but the lack of pipeline infrastructure makes it difficult or impossible to supply American homes in the northeast.

Closer to home, our own commonwealth’s overly burdensome regulatory environment has also been a significant hurdle in realizing our own true economic and energy potential. Simply put, these policies make a promising solution an impractical reality.

There have been encouraging signals coming from Harrisburg and the new Shapiro administration, and the time is now for our political and policy leaders to support permitting reform to increase infrastructure development and natural gas production in Pennsylvania. As we like to say in Washington County “the power to prosper is right under our feet,” but it does us no good if it stays there. Permitting reform that allows us to unleash our American energy resources and bring them safely and efficiently to market will power job growth, improve the everyday lives of Americans and set the course for a more prosperous future.

Author: Jeff Kotula
Publication: Pittsburgh Tribune
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