Opinion: Developing clean-burning Pennsylvania natural gas is common-sense environmentalism at work

//August 12, 2016

Opinion: Developing clean-burning Pennsylvania natural gas is common-sense environmentalism at work

//August 12, 2016

By tapping the wealth of natural gas reserves beneath our feet, not only will we be able to meet our rising energy demand, but it will allow us to be better stewards of our air and water for future generations.

Natural gas burns twice as cleanly as high-carbon energy sources and is a natural resource of which we have an abundance. We should seize the opportunity of living near the Marcellus Shale formation, and embrace this energy source as a common-sense tool to help our state curb greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas is already responsible for nearly one-quarter of Pennsylvania’s energy portfolio, so the infrastructure projects under consideration would continue our energy momentum, while also cleaning the air and creating jobs – as natural gas is proving to do for much of the rest of the country.

This is a critical time. The Clean Power Plan put forth by the federal government requires a 23 percent cut in CO2 emissions for Pennsylvania by 2030. This is an ambitious, worthwhile goal as our state and nation builds towards a cleaner energy future, but those cuts mean that energy will go offline, at the same time that national numbers project a double digit increase in electricity demand by 2030. Research provided by the Clean Power Progress campaign shows that this increase in demand and decrease in supply will create an energy shortfall that will leave 22% of Pennsylvania’s homes and businesses without power.

Natural gas is the cost-effective, reliable and pragmatic answer.

That’s why it is important for Pennsylvanians to be heard when the Department of Environmental Protection holds hearings for the Mariner East II pipeline in coming days – like Tuesday in Harrisburg at the Keystone Conference Center.

Concerns about cleaner air are often met with renewables as the solution, but the simple fact is that solar and wind and hydro cannot shoulder projected energy shortfall scenarios by themselves. Solar and wind are too intermittent at this point to provide power on days where there is not full sun or not enough breeze. Though natural gas can provide back-up power to renewables during these times (and therefore will be necessary regardless). The fact is that using renewable power alone is not a realistic cost-effective way to provide energy to Pennsylvanians. For example, if Pennsylvania wanted to try to fill the projected 22 percent power shortfall by 2030, it would take a solar farm twice the size of Philadelphia at a price tag of $103 billion.

Pragmatic Pennsylvanians want a cleaner energy future for our state that keeps the lights on in our homes, schools and stores. That’s why concerned citizens should attend public DEP hearings on Mariner East II to support it and other responsible infrastructure investments.

While activists have voiced concerns about the safety of natural gas infrastructure, evidence shows that pipelines are by far the safest way to transport fuels. With a safe and skilled workforce and responsible contractors, natural gas infrastructure can be built in a way that preserves the environment. When standards are met, not only is natural gas infrastructure a safe and effective way to keep our lights on but also a meaningful way to create good jobs with benefits and training that lead to construction careers that will keep food on the tables of working families across Pennsylvania.

Projects like these would add $3 billion into our state’s economy and create nearly 17,000 good jobs– but possibly more importantly, they also improve quality of life for all Pennsylvanians, including some of our most vulnerable. Transitioning to natural gas will reduce air pollution, which kills 3,800 Pennsylvanians prematurely each year and causes health ailments like heart attacks, bronchitis and asthma in many others.

With public health, economic stability, environmental improvement and energy security all at stake, I urge Pennsylvanians to join me in attending these hearings in support vital projects like Mariner East II and common-sense development of natural gas infrastructure.