With prices at the pump reaching levels not seen since 2014, it is critical that our elected leaders find ways to continue their support for oil and gas development. The more our opponents try to pit the government against the energy industry, the more consumers and businesses end up paying.

Fortunately for the United States, Pennsylvania’s energy revolution is bigger than Pennsylvania alone. Our output is generating community benefits near and far, thanks to a network of pipelines that move product to market.

But serious constraints still exist.

Pennsylvania currently is the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer behind Texas. The combination of highly productive Marcellus and Utica shales provides a valuable supply of clean-burning and abundant energy. Transporting these products requires a robust infrastructure and related assets to deliver them to where consumers and businesses can put them to use.

Projects like the Mariner East pipeline network, which connects gas fields in western Pennsylvania with the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in Delaware County, as well as the Revolution pipeline and Shell’s cracker plant, both in western Pennsylvania, all play a role in our energy success.

Yet fringe activists have tried to stifle these essential energy projects, seeking to either halt them altogether or stop them from reaching their full potential.

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Mariner East is a perfect example. This pipeline system, which transports natural gas liquids, has faced countless regulatory and legal challenges that have led to construction setbacks that delayed work and affected livelihoods.

In mid-January, three state legislators levied unsupported claims against Mariner East, saying restarted construction work in the Marsh Creek area of Chester County was causing pollution. The only problem is, they were wrong.

The Chester County Conservation District inspected reports of turbidity at Marsh Creek Lake but found that the blame was not from the pipeline but from sediment basin discharges from the Preserve at Marsh Creek, an unrelated and nearby development project.

Lawmakers jumped to conclusions without all the facts. That’s unfortunate. Constituents shouldn’t be hoodwinked by legislators on a mission legislators who still have never owned up to being wrong.

I believe safe and efficient infrastructure is the foundation for a prosperous society. As the Business Manager for Steamfitters Local 420, I have seen the tangible benefits of Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry and its positive impact on hundreds of multi-generation union men and women.

These projects provide lasting, good-paying jobs to our skilled workers.

Development of Mariner East has been a massive undertaking, representing one of the single largest infrastructure investments in Pennsylvania. Independent studies report more than $9.1 billion in direct economic benefits for the state, including more than 57,000 jobs during construction and as many as 500 jobs annually at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex that the pipeline supplies.

Remember that facility once was nearly shuttered, at one point down to just about 50 workers. That’s a dramatic turnaround from then to now.

We can continue to be an economic and climate leader by embracing responsible natural gas production, infrastructure, and use.

Beyond the jobs, the millions of dollars in taxes paid by entities like the Mariner East and the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex benefit everyone, no matter what your energy views are, because that money funds education, health care, public transportation, local law enforcement initiatives and so much more, and benefits the stores, restaurants and local businesses where the projects are built. 

I would also argue that it’s not just the economy that benefits. Pipelines are critical to the fight against climate change. With the safe, efficient transport of natural gas through pipelines to wider markets, electric sector-related emissions greatly decreased since 2005 as natural gas production and use has increased.

In other words, we can continue to be an economic and climate leader by embracing responsible natural gas production, infrastructure, and use.

That is why it is so important for our elected leaders to continue their support of domestic energy production while prioritizing the necessary infrastructure investments to ensure reliable, affordable energy remains accessible to residents and businesses alike.

Jim Snell is the Business Manager of Steamfitters Local 420.

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