Berks County Event Showcases Effects of Energy Policies on Domestic, Foreign Affairs

Berks County doesn’t sit atop Pennsylvania’s vast Marcellus shale field, but its businesses rely on it and its residents benefit from it.

The county is home to a massive manufacturing base, and the abundant, affordable supply of natural gas delivered through domestic production is vital to keeping energy costs low and delivering the feedstock many businesses need to remain competitive.

But government policies are starting to hamper that production and exacerbate constraints in pipeline infrastructure, making it harder to deliver a variety of homegrown energy resources that families and businesses depend on.

Energy and manufacturing leaders discussed these challenges at the Think About Energy forum, “Berks County and its place on the World Energy Stage,” held today at Omega Systems in West Lawn, Berks County.

Among the speakers were Katie Hetherington Cunfer of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance; Pam Witmer of UGI Energy Services, which was a driver behind PennEast; and David Taylor of the Pennsylvania Manufactures’ Association

The accessibility and affordability of homegrown natural gas has become even more important as local energy policies have a more immediate and broader foreign impact, creating barriers that prevent American from providing support to its geopolitical allies.

Ukraine and Europe are hostage to Russian natural gas, but American pipelines are full — and they were full long before the crisis erupted overseas because of policies that make it hard to develop pipelines, Whitmer said.

Berks County’s location in eastern Pennsylvania puts it near two pipeline projects that have been canceled recently — PennEast, which, led by Berks County-based UGI, would have run southeast from Luzerne County into New Jersey; and Williams’ Constitution pipeline, which would have connected natural gas production in Pennsylvania to northeastern markets.

The domestic and foreign impacts of project delays are in stark focus today.

Manufacturing is the engine that drives local economies, Taylor said. Adequate infrastructure and affordable domestic energy supplies are essential to delivering the inputs that make possible the chemistry of creating the products everyone relies on daily. It is also essential to security at home and abroad.

Berks County may not sit atop the Marcellus shale, but it is still an important intersection for gas production, with both Energy Transfer’s cross-state Mariner East network and Enbridge’s Texas Eastern system, which deliver natural gas and natural gas liquids, respectively, among others, located within its borders.

Policies that make it cost prohibitive to produce and ship these energy resources will only hurt businesses and force residents to pay more, while continuing to weaken the United States geopolitically, Hetherington Cunfer said.

As these domestic and foreign crises converge, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are starting to understand the importance of ensuring Pennsylvania capitalizes upon its energy-rich resources. But there is still resistance. More needs to be done, and quickly, and building out the pipeline infrastructure is a big part of the solution.