Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the country and our ongoing production has made the United States the largest producer of this vital commodity in the world. But while the “power to prosper is right under our feet” with our abundant natural gas resources, it provides us with no benefit if it remains there. Our resources need to reach markets and customers to continue to have a positive economic impact and that is the reason pipeline infrastructure projects such as the Mariner East are important.
Mariner East is a massive infrastructure development project. Construction on the pipeline already has contributed more than $9.1 billion to the Pennsylvania economy. This project has also employed tens of thousands of skilled laborers and other workers in the state. These jobs produce family-sustaining wages, provide economic growth in communities, and benefit our local and state economies. However, only the completion of this pipeline will unleash the real potential for an energy-enabled economy and we need to support its finalization.
Currently, Energy Transfer – the project’s developer – is proposing to modify construction methods for a portion of Mariner East running through the Marsh Creek area in Upper Uwchlan Township, Chester County. The company wants to alter the construction method from horizontal directional drilling to an open cut in the area, with alterations to the pipeline route. Horizontal directional drilling is a steerable, trenchless method of installing underground pipe. Open trench installation is an excavation where the pipeline is lowered into the trench and covered. The open trench method eliminates the potential for any inadvertent returns and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection convened a virtual hearing June 16 to share the modification with the public.
Energy Transfer must be able to make modifications to the project as needed based on construction realities they experience in the field. Energy infrastructure development is heavily dependent on the environment around it and to preserve all facets of environmental safety, pipeline developers should be granted modifications that ensure this safety, minimize community disruption, and allow safe completion.
But why should those of us in Southwestern Pennsylvania care about a portion of the project in Southeastern Pennsylvania? We need to concern ourselves because that section represents the final link of the pipeline that spans more than 300 miles across our state, and its completion means our commonwealth can finally realize the full potential of its economic benefits.
Mariner East is necessary to ensure that natural gas developers and producers can provide these energy resources to consumers in a safe and efficient manner in the Greater Pittsburgh region. This section is the last link of the west-to-east network to be completed and households and businesses will continue to see savings in their monthly energy bills. Others in the northeastern United States could benefit as well as Mariner East has led to the repurposing of the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, which serves as a critical processing, storage, and transport hub for natural gas developed in our state.
Pennsylvania has strengthened America’s energy leadership through abundant, efficient, and clean burning natural gas and we can further reinforce our position by encouraging continued investments in energy infrastructure to safely and responsibly deliver natural gas, natural gas liquids, and other refined products to market. That is the reason the Washington County Chamber of Commerce supports the Mariner East pipeline project and why the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection should do the same.
Jeff Kotula is president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.