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Pennsylvania’s development of shale gas is a homegrown industry with national and global benefits – from improving air quality to reshaping geopolitics – making America and our allies stronger and more secure.

The industry in our commonwealth has transitioned from producing 20% of the state’s natural gas consumption to producing 20% of the nation’s consumption. It has grown into an industry that supports more than 322,000 jobs and generates approximately $23 billion in wages annually.

As the state senator representing all of Greene and portions of Washington and Beaver counties, I observe firsthand the significant benefits that natural gas provides in boosting the economy, providing family-sustaining jobs and producing affordable energy. The location, resources and workforce in Southwestern Pennsylvania make the region a prime location for growth.

All of this has helped solidify Pennsylvania as the location for Shell’s ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, one of the largest economic investments in Pennsylvania since World War II. No doubt, this investment will utilize hundreds of local contractors and suppliers, employ thousands of construction workers, and promises to create numerous, permanent positions upon completion of the facility.

As chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, I applaud Shell’s $1.5 million investment in local education and training programs, such as the creations of a new STEM lab, to ensure our students are equipped for the jobs of the future. Shell is also to be commended for its commitment to help local veterans by providing training for various positions that will be needed within the new facility. I believe we can expect even more companies like Shell, which use byproducts of our abundance of natural gas, to invest and grow right here in the Keystone State if we ensure the safe means to transport natural gas liquids.

I recently had the opportunity to participate and speak on a panel hosted by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce discussing pipeline infrastructure, specifically sharing my support for policies that will move natural gas development forward. Pipelines remove scores of trucks from our roadways and continue to be the safest – by far – and most reliable means to transfer natural gas throughout the state and country. That is why it is essential we encourage the safe, responsible development of pipeline infrastructure in order for this commonwealth to reap the considerable economic benefits of these critical industries in the form of more jobs and lower energy costs to consumers.

Western Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to be a national leader in the gas industry for decades into the future, particularly based on the rich deposits of natural gas in the region, coupled with a skilled workforce. However, the actions that may be taken by lawmakers over the next several months and years will determine whether we will be a leader in these industries for generations to come.

Let’s work together to avoid implementing roadblocks that would halt this industry’s progress and instead focus efforts on supporting safe and reliable natural gas infrastructure, workforce development, and job training programs to strengthen our communities.

State Sen. Camera Bartolotta represents Greene County and parts of Beaver and Washington counties. In 1988, she co-founded the Duke of Oil, an oil and lube service in Carroll Township.

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