Pennsylvanians have more energy under their feet than any nation on the planet except Saudi Arabia. We are duty bound — economically, strategically, and morally — to safely get it out of the ground and into the homes and business of Pennsylvania, America, and our allies in Europe.
There are over 72,000 people working in the natural gas industry in the state, plus those supplying the industry or benefitting from its workers spending their money — from tools, computers, and restaurants to hardware stores. This gas allows us to heat our homes and businesses; run factories; make chemicals; and manufacture water-bottles, dri-fit shirts, computers, cars, and solar panels. If we optimize this resource, we will generate billions more in taxes for over a century and create thousands of new jobs.
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Natural gas businesses and employees have paid billions in taxes, including the impact fee and corporate, personal, income, and sales taxes. It’s also important to remember that natural gas burns cleaner than oil and coal. This has contributed to Pennsylvania’s air quality being its best in modern times.
For those focused on greener energy, remember that natural gas is needed to make solar panels, and it’s a bridge from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy like hydrogen. We can be a leader in those products, too. That’s why Pennsylvania can be the No. 1 energy state in the nation and become the leader once again in manufacturing.
Misguided national and state policies, however, have kept too much gas (and oil) in the ground. These decisions have caused inflation — for groceries, for heating our homes (up to 50% more), and for filling up our gas tanks (almost twice as much). Americans are now dependent on Russia and Saudi Arabia to heat our homes and fuel our cars.
But it’s not only left-wing policies and environmental extremists that have kept the gas in the ground. We have to admit that the industry shares some of the blame — and it has allowed its ideological opponents to exaggerate their case against natural gas, such as the falsehood that we can just end fossil fuels today and run our cars and factories on windmills and batteries. They ignore the fact that batteries and windmills must be built with or from raw materials that come from fossil fuels, and that windmills use diesel-fuel back-up generators.
The industry’s occasional bad behavior has also caused second thoughts even in northern Pennsylvania. Homeowners and farmers are paid for the gas under their land by entering into contracts to receive royalties — commissions based on the prices that gas companies are able to get in the marketplace. At times, however, homeowners are confused or even misled by promises of royalties in the fine print. While the contracts usually work out very well for property owners (actually helping save family farms, another benefit for our quality of life), occasionally some contracts leave homeowners getting little to no long-term benefits. In a few extreme cases, homeowners even wind up owing taxes or fees.
That’s a problem that must be addressed by transparent contracts and state standards that avoid unexpected or unfair losses for homeowners and farmers.
There is an additional problem — a problem known especially to Chester County residents like me: the Mariner East pipeline. The 99%-completed pipeline running from southwest Pennsylvania (where the gas is extracted) to Delaware County (where the gas would be processed) has experienced countless leaks and malfunctions. Locally, the sense over the years has been that the company was indifferent and not always forthcoming with information or apologies.
When constructing a pipeline across the state, using an easement from the 1930s, it’s not unexpected that there will be problems. The land and water have shifted over the last eight decades. Chester County in 2017 looked very different than it did in 1937.
It’s understandable, then, that many residents aren’t focused on the big-picture economic and national security value of our state’s gas — and are opponents of the pipeline. The pipeline is still not completed; many in Chester County aren’t working in the industry; and residents don’t have natural gas fueling their homes or businesses — and therefore are not benefitting from it.
For too long, Pennsylvania has missed the opportunity to strive for greatness and meet the challenges of being a leader. We cannot let this happen in energy.
As CEO of the Chester County Chamber, I’ve written about the need for this industry’s responsible growth. We’ve held seminars and taken tours in Delaware County and on wellpad sites upstate in Susquehanna County and also met with business leaders in Williamsport. Why? Because I knew the potential benefits and opportunities from natural gas for all residents of our state.
For us to reach that potential, there must be safeguards in place to protect land-owners and to protect communities where gas lines are running. Acknowledging these challenges — and addressing them — is an essential part of the long-term solution. It’s not a reason to give up or stop. We have scientists, engineers, laborers, and hard-working Pennsylvanians committed to doing this right.
As a candidate for governor, I know the importance of this industry to our state’s and nation’s future. For too long, Pennsylvania has missed the opportunity to strive for greatness and meet the challenges of being a leader. We cannot let this happen in energy.
This time, we are duty-bound to get it right.
Guy Ciarrocchi is a Republican candidate for governor and is on leave as CEO of the Chester County Chamber. guy@GuyForGov.com