Delco Times: Guest Column: It’s time to get back to work on Mariner East

Union members across Pennsylvania are some of the most valuable contributors to the state’s economy. Unfortunately, recent years have been smeared with a lot of ‘stop and go’ construction on projects like the Mariner East pipeline system. Jim Snell, business manager of Steamfitters Local 420, recently opined in the Delco Times on the importance of natural gas energy projects to the state. Read here:

Now that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections has lifted its block on the release of permits related to Mariner East, construction on the pipeline can finally resume and workers can return to their jobs. While the project so far has brought numerous benefits to our local union members and residents across the state, completion of Mariner East is critical for Pennsylvania to realize maximum benefits from the energy industry.

Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region holds an abundance of natural resources, previously untapped, that have brought the state countless economic opportunities. Transporting these materials via in-state pipelines not only is the safest mode of delivery for vast amounts of energy, but it also has led to lower energy costs for consumers.

Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel available, releasing up to 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and 20 percent to 30 percent less than oil. In fact, a recent study showed that greenhouse gas emissions dropped 19 percent in Pennsylvania thanks to the expanded use of natural gas.

About half of all Pennsylvanians already use natural gas to heat their homes; electricity alone accounts for nearly half of the natural gas consumed in Pennsylvania. With this level of natural gas usage already across the state, additional energy infrastructure projects like Mariner East are absolutely necessary.

One major benefit of Mariner East construction is its employment of local labor union members. The pipeline was projected to generate more than 57,000 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase and approximately 350 to 530 permanent positions throughout Pennsylvania. Steamfitters who live in communities in southeastern Pennsylvania have been direct beneficiaries.

Some opponents of the project love to call these jobs temporary, but what construction project is not meant to be temporary? These workers have received the best training available to work on many of the so-called “temporary” construction projects that Pennsylvanians use every single day. They are proud to build this project and the other infrastructure projects necessary to help support the growing energy industry and ensure that the continued safety of our communities.

Moreover, that view ignores the long-term opportunities that pipelines bring, like support for the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex and other similar operations along the line.

Pipeline workers live and raise their families here, and they take great pride going to work in the morning and coming home for dinner each night, knowing the positive impact of their work on our commonwealth.

When the permit hold was put in place, construction was halted, meaning many workers were idled as well. Now, with this hold lifted, all of them look forward to getting back to work.

The state Department of Environmental Protection’s authorization to proceed also demonstrates their commitment to Pennsylvania’s need for energy infrastructure and the safety of our communities. DEP fairly and diligently regulates Mariner East and other energy infrastructure projects to ensure they are planned, constructed, and operated with the safety of our communities and environment top of mind.

The boon in Pennsylvania’s energy industry is still in its infancy. Completion of Mariner East will allow the state to see the big picture of what the industry has to offer — lower energy costs, more jobs, and increased tax revenues, not to mention increased economic activity across the state in countless spinoff industries. That’s why it’s so important to get back to work.