When the Mariner East permit bar was lifted recently it was truly a notice to celebrate. [CH1] Tom Shepstone, writer with Natural Gas Now, recently drew attention to the permit bar and its cost for those that work on energy infrastructure projects.
Pipeline activists are keen to rollout their righteous (and misleading) rhetoric about these projects, especially Mariner East, but seldom consider the impacts of stalling these projects or obstructing construction. While this is not their top priority as a regulator, it is important to note that their response has economic impacts on workers and the Commonwealth.
Shepstone did the heavy lifting on quantifying the costs of this permit bar for construction workers, including findings:
- Pennsylvania employment in Oil and Gas Pipeline and Related Structures Construction (NAICS 23712) in 2018 was 10,529 and dropped to 2,905 by the Third Quarter of 2019. That’s a decline of 7,624 or 72% in construction workers during the Mariner East moratorium.
- Pennsylvania annual wages for Oil and Gas Pipeline and Related Structures Construction dropped from $1,082,869,000 in 2018 to an estimated $329,764,000 in 2019—a loss of $753,105,000 in state income before considering multiplier effects, which are considerable.
- Those counties along the Mariner East route employed many of those construction workers, Westmoreland County, for example, losing an estimated 50 jobs or more, worth a minimum of $3.9 million and as much as $5.7 million in income.
- Other counties where Mariner East construction workers were employed also lost. Oil and Gas Pipeline and Related Structures Construction wages paid in Chester County went from $91.5 million in 2015 to a number too small to be reportable in 2019. Likewise, Indiana County went from $49.6 million in 2016 to a non-reportable status in 2019.
- The multiplier effects have been conservatively estimated at an additional 78%, meaning the indirect and induced impacts of the Mariner East moratorium on Westmoreland County alone were as much as $4.4 million, bringing the total impact on construction workers to over $10 million in this one county. There are 13 counties majorly impacted by Mariner East construction, meaning the moratorium could have easily cost Pennsylvania construction workers more than $130 million.
Union and construction workers were right to be frustrated. Delays like the Mariner East permit bar throw wrenches into the construction timeline, financial feasibility, and steal wages from the hardworking energy members.