Pennsylvanians Benefit from Record Natural Gas Production

Pennsylvania held its spot as the nation’s second largest natural gas producing state, with a record 5.1 Tcf of clean-burning natural gas produced in the Commonwealth last year, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s 2016 Annual Oil & Gas Report. The agency’s report issued this week also shows that as production continues to surpass previous records, compliance with Pennsylvania’s strong, modern regulations nears all-time highs.

(Source: DEP 2016 Oil & Gas Annual Report)

As MSC’s Dave Spigelmyer told the Beaver County Times, this latest report “demonstrates that Pennsylvania’s strong, modernized regulatory framework is working effectively and that more duplicative and costly regulations that will hurt the Commonwealth’s ability to compete for job-creating capital investment are unnecessary.”

With natural gas production surpassing record levels, how is the Commonwealth benefitting from this abundant energy supply?

Public transit authorities, for example, are investing in new, efficient buses that run on locally produced, clean-burning compressed natural gas. The Lehigh and Northampton Transit Authority plans to “convert its entire bus fleet to natural gas,” the Morning Call reported, as the abundant fuel source “is cheaper and burns cleaner and more efficiently.”

With natural gas, opportunities for our region’s manufacturers are bright, as well. As construction begins on Shell’s petrochemical plant in Beaver Co., for example, area building trades unions are expanding apprenticeship programs to fill “the need for qualified operators.” Jim Kunz, business manager of IUOE Local 66 told the Tribune-Review, energy-related construction has been “good for our members [and] good for the region” as younger workers graduate from apprentice programs and begin work building the manufacturing facilities, infrastructure, and new power generators fueled by Pennsylvania natural gas.

Here’s what they’re saying about producing, transporting, and expanding the use of Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas resources:

CLEAN-BURNING FUEL  

  • Lehigh and Northampton Transit Authority “Plans to Convert Its Entire Bus Fleet to Natural Gas”: LANTA also plans to buy eight new buses, all of which will be fueled with compressed natural gas, which is cheaper and burns cleaner and more efficiently, [LANTA Executive Director Owen P.] O’Neil said. … LANTA, meanwhile, is hoping to take delivery of 16 previously ordered CNG buses by late July or early August, according to O’Neil. … The authority plans to convert its entire bus fleet to natural gas over the next several years. With the order from this capital budget, LANTA would have 24 CNG buses by sometime in 2018. (Morning Call, 5/12/17)
  • 94 Downtown Cleveland Buildings Heated with “100 Percent Natural Gas”: Today the steam coursing under downtown city streets heating 94 buildings is fueled by shale gas from Ohio and Pa. Cleveland Thermal has gone 100 percent natural gas. Making the switch to the cleanest fuel yet required a $25 million expansion of the Cleveland Thermal’s E. 18th Street and Hamilton Avenue steam and chilled water plant. … … Marc Divis, president of Cleveland Thermal, said switching to natural gas will reduce the company’s carbon dioxide emissions by 49,200 tons a year. That’s an 84 percent reduction and the equivalent of planting a dense 19,000 acre forest. … Scott Thomson, president and CEO of the Corix Group, told the crowd that conversion to gas is the company’s first step “toward the modernization and revitalization of historic infrastructure assets in downtown Cleveland.” (Plain-Dealer, 5/15/17)

ECONOMIC ENGINE

  • Perry Co. Joins Natural Gas Co-Op to Boost Business: Perry Co. commissioners voted last week to join a natural gas cooperative with three other counties to research and develop projects that could help the region’s future economic development. Brenda Benner, commissioners’ chairman, said joining the cooperative could benefit Perry’s commercial, industrial and agricultural businesses, with some natural gas potentially going to residential use in the future. … Trucked natural gas (compressed or liquefied) makes more sense because Perry and the other counties in the co-op do not have the commercial and industrial density. … The county, township and others have said natural gas would be a boost to closing deals with commercial and industrial tenants of the business park. (PennLive, 5/13/17)
  • Fallowfield Twp. Uses Natural Gas Impact Tax Revenues to Improve, Restore Local Parks: When ribbon-­cutting ceremonies were held recently for the playground at Elementary Park in Fallowfield Twp., it marked the culmination of five years of work and planning. It is just the beginning of positive improvements for the township’s two parks, said Fallowfield Twp. Supervisor Wilbur Caldwell. “This is the first thing that has been visible to the public,” Caldwell said. … The parks projects have benefited from Local Share Account and Act 13 impact fees. “Last year, we purchased steel bleachers, four at Elementary Park and two at Community Park,” Caldwell said. “Then, we did fence repairs on ballpark sat both parks and placed new fencing at the Elementary Park fields. … The remainder of the funds for the playground equipment came from Act 13 Marcellus shale impact fees. … The Pittsburgh Pirates Charities also granted $5,000, which the township will match from Act 13 impact fees to fund two electronic scoreboards. … The next step will be construction of a walking trail. “And we’re looking at grants and Act 13 money for that project to begin next year,” Caldwell said. “All of this was done with money from Act 13 impact fees, LSA grants and donations,” Caldwell said. “There were no tax dollars used.” (Herald-Standard, 5/15/17)
  • New Program at CCBC Designed to Prepare Students for Labor Union Apprenticeships: Construction on Shell Chemicals’ $6 billion ethane cracker plant is slated to start later this year, and with it will come an influx of 6,000 laborers who will build the massive structure. Even before Shell announced last June it was coming to Beaver Co., local officials were working to ensure those 6,000 jobs would go to local residents. To that end, the Community College of Beaver Co. has started a new program that will train local residents to ready themselves for possible employment as an apprentice in one of the 16 building trades in western Pa. … From [John Goberish’s] standpoint, participating in the program is a no-brainer. Prospective students don’t have to pay a dime to participate and will even receive a $125 stipend upon completion of the program. … Goberish said Shell’s arrival here was a “huge catalyst” in terms of bringing the apprenticeship program to CCBC, but he admitted it wasn’t the only driving force. “The ethane cracker plant will bring 6,000 jobs here, but that’s not it,” he said. “We have baby boomers retiring in droves and other large construction projects slated to happen. (The CCBC program) is about more than finding employment for Shell. It’s an opportunity for someone to have a career they can retire from.” (Beaver Co. Times, 5/10/17)
  • It’s Time to Build Energy Infrastructure: Building out and modernizing our region’s and the nation’s infrastructure is a critical goal that’s broadly supported by voters across the political spectrum. … Regionally, infrastructure development is a clear winner for Pa. According to a recent report from the ICF consulting firm, U.S. energy infrastructure development could create more than 1 million new American jobs by 2035. In Pa., two critical energy projects, Mariner East II and PennEast, are projected to support more than 25,000 good-paying local jobs, including many for our region’s building trades union members. To meet these growing demands, local unions are expanding their apprenticeship programs to prepare workers for energy careers. As IUOE Local 66 business manager Jim Kunz recently said, energy development is “good for our members (and) for the region.” At the same time, infrastructure is enabling a manufacturing revitalization for Pa. families and workers. We’re seeing this at the Shell petrochemical facility in Beaver Co. And there’s more opportunity on the horizon. In fact, a new IHS Markit report, commissioned by the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, highlighted these opportunities, noting that Pa.’s abundant energy resources could transform the commonwealth into a petrochemical manufacturing hub. With the right regulatory and tax policies, given our world-class natural gas resources and workforce, the commonwealth has the potential to attract investment, create jobs, and fully realize a bright and promising future. For these reasons, and many more, it’s time to build. (Observer-Reporter letter, 5/18/17)

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