Op-ed: Develop Pa.'s energy infrastructure

Posted: March 08, 2016

F ield of Dreams, the iconic 1980s movie, coined the phrase, "If you build it, they will come." As it pertains to energy infrastructure, Pennsylvania needs to follow the same philosophy.

Not long ago many were concerned about the cost and availability of much-needed energy resources. Gas crept north of $4 a gallon and some residents in the Northeast, including Pennsylvanians, felt the effects of propane shortages during cold winter months. With the development of the Marcellus shale in Western Pennsylvania, we have an opportunity to play a major role to ensure increased access to affordable, clean-burning energy resources.

Gov. Wolf understands that pipelines are the most efficient and safest way to transport energy resources, which is why he created the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force. This group - with 48 members from the environmental community, academia, and the energy industry - was tasked with providing a "set of recommendations to help Pennsylvania achieve responsible development of natural-gas pipeline infrastructure."

The task force met seven times and crafted 184 suggestions for streamlining the pipeline permit process, improving safety, and ensuring environmental protection. As more gas is produced in the Marcellus and Utica shale, more pipelines are necessary to ensure these resources are transported safely to processing facilities and markets. The committee also produced 12 recommendations for further consideration.

Members of the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance and others provided comments during this process, expressing both our individual and collective interest in expanding pipeline development.

The energy boom in Western Pennsylvania has provided our state many opportunities. Pennsylvania benefits economically through added jobs, more hotel visitors, increased restaurant sales, and extra business at local stores. Other benefits include increased tax revenue, which can benefit local communities for schools and road construction.

But the energy boom also provides us access to affordable, home-grown energy resources.

As the recently elected president of the National Grange and a Pennsylvania resident, I can tell you that pipelines also benefit the agricultural community.

Pennsylvania farmers have a rich tradition as stewards of the land. We support projects that strike the right balance between respecting the land and putting it to proper use for the benefit of Pennsylvanians. At our recent Pennsylvania annual meeting, Grange delegates adopted a resolution "supporting the construction, renovation, and upgrading of pipelines across Pennsylvania to take advantage of the economic development possibilities, well-paying jobs, and freedom from dependence on foreign oil that Pennsylvania-produced natural gas will bring to our community." The Grange has been involved in this process to ensure that any eminent-domain issues with private landowners are resolved in a fair, transparent, and legal manner.

With pipelines crossing their property, landowners have natural inclinations to reserve judgment on proposed pipelines. I grew up on a dairy farm in Westtown Township in Chester County, and a pipeline went through the farm. We never would have known it was there except for the markers next to the road. We continued farming and the cows grazed on the land with no disruption from the pipeline's existence.

While energy development in the commonwealth has been a positive development, Pennsylvania must make the necessary investments in pipeline infrastructure to ensure the safe delivery of these resources from the Marcellus shale of Western Pennsylvania to facilities in Southeast Pennsylvania, like the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex.

The revitalization of Marcus Hook is a symbol of a larger revitalization in the southeast part of the state. Strategically positioned on the Eastern Seaboard, Marcus Hook has been transformed to accept natural-gas liquids through the Mariner East pipeline from the Marcellus Shale for processing, cooling, storing, and delivery to markets domestically and abroad. These projects will inject an estimated $4.2 billion into the Pennsylvania economy, adding 30,000 jobs during construction and 300 to 400 permanent jobs once operational.

The governor, Department of Environmental Preservation Secretary John Quigley, and all who served on the task force deserve a thank you for their service. The recommendations are just the beginning, and we look forward to working together to ensure the development of much-needed energy infrastructure.

Betsy E. Huber is president of the National Grange. betsy@nationalgrange.org

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