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From 2005 to 2017, Pennsylvania tripled its daily production of natural gas with the help of the Marcellus and Utica shale reserves. The abundance of natural gas has opened a door of economic opportunity for Pennsylvanians, but to fully take advantage of these energy resources, we must also invest in modern pipeline infrastructure to carry natural gas and other critical fuels to consumers – the subject of a road tour I had the pleasure of participating in recently.

The first stop on our tour was a panel discussion in Canonsburg hosted by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce featuring local officials and infrastructure experts from the Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN) Coalition. Later that day, we toured a new energy facility, CPV Fairview in Cambria County, to recognize the revitalization of Pennsylvania’s thriving energy sector and the important role of natural gas that is powering Pennsylvania.

The panel discussion highlighted how the Marcellus Shale has provided Pennsylvania with vast opportunity to grow the state’s natural gas sector – leading to economic growth, lower energy costs, new jobs, and increased tax revenue. Pennsylvania is now only second to Texas in producing natural gas and plays a significant role in lowering carbon emissions. The significant increase in energy products is an advantage to communities large and small across the state.

I was joined on the panel by GAIN strategic adviser and former Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Administrator Brigham McCown, GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens, and Pennsylvania state Sen. Camera Bartlotta. Each panelist provided a unique perspective on how to best support Pennsylvania’s booming energy industry, how to inform the public on the importance of reliable, efficient energy infrastructure, and the need for further investment in our state’s pipeline network. From Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, Canonsburg to Allentown, taxpayers are benefiting from the state’s record natural gas production.

In fact, local governments are already receiving funds from Act 13. This law requires fees be paid by companies using natural gas wells in various locations. Governments use this money to support their community’s needs and complete restorations. The “impact fee” generated from production is distributed to not only the communities in which drilling occurs, but across the state, including my home county in the southeast part of Pennsylvania. The excess of natural gas production in Western Pennsylvania has also triggered larger investments that will bring economic prosperity to the entire state.

But despite the critical contributions of our state’s natural gas boom, many activists and elected officials have instead focused on ideological opposition to fossil fuels – and Pennsylvania consumers are left with the burden of increased energy costs. Opposing pipelines will not eliminate the use of fossil fuels, considering nearly half of all Pennsylvania homes rely on natural gas as the primary home heating fuel. Instead, by undermining much-needed pipeline infrastructure, fuels like oil and natural gas will have to be transported by truck and rail, both of which are less efficient, less safe, and less environmentally friendly than modern pipelines.

CPV Fairview is set to go online in 2020. This facility uses regionally sourced natural gas and ethane to produce electricity, with the capacity to supply energy for 1 million households in the commonwealth. The power plant is an off-take of three pipelines, two for natural gas and the Mariner East Pipeline for ethane. Energy produced regionally cuts down transportation and delivery costs, reducing the total consumers must pay for electricity.

CPV Fairview’s initial $1 billion dollar investment made it possible to employ over 500 skilled laborers during the construction stage alone. These local employees are able to earn wages to support their families, contribute to tax revenues, and commerce within the local communities. CPV will hire full-time operations jobs when construction is complete, with personnel earning between $3 million and $4 million dollars in annual salaries and benefits. The millions of dollars in payroll benefits both local and regional economies.

The economic and environmental benefits of Pennsylvania’s energy projects are impossible to ignore. It’s time for our elected officials at both the state and national level to prioritize further development in our critical energy infrastructure network if we want to move forward. Consumers, laborers and all Pennsylvanians deserve to benefit from what their great state has to offer.

Earl Baker is former state senator and Chester County commissioner. In the Senate, he chaired the Labor and Industry Committee.

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