Is true bipartisanship possible when it comes to addressing Pennsylvania and the nation’s infrastructure and energy needs? That was the theme of a recent live webinar hosted by PEIA founding member, the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, along with Pittsburgh Works, a group of Southwestern Pennsylvania-based union and business leaders advocating for a diverse, local economy.
Emceed by Jon Delano, KDKA-TV’s Politics and Money Editor, a small group of republican and democratic lawmakers gathered virtually to discuss why investment in infrastructure is crucial to the future of Pennsylvania’s economy and our nation’s long-term security and survival. This timely and lively discussion took place amid President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which he unveiled in March during a visit to Pittsburgh. It’s a sweeping proposal that aims to create jobs and reinvigorate the economy by making large investments to our nation’s infrastructure.
Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb (PA-18), Republican Speaker of the State House Bryan Cutler (PA-100), and Republican State Representative Josh Kail (PA-15) all agreed that both political parties understand and believe Pennsylvania has an infrastructure problem.
Speaker Cutler said that when people discuss investments in infrastructure, they most often think of it in terms of roads, bridges, and roads, yet they forget that Pennsylvania has two other challenges: ports and pipelines. Cutler urged the more than 200 individuals who tuned into the webinar to think about pipeline infrastructure development in terms of what it will mean to our roads and personal safety. He said that if Pennsylvania could focus on building out more pipelines that would mean less trucks on the roads, and a safer way to have our energy resources, like natural gas, transported. Cutler was adamant that lawmakers need to think long-term about infrastructure investment and not just look at what needs to be done in the next few months or even years.
Congressman Lamb agreed with Cutler and mentioned that Pennsylvania could have done very well back in February if we were able to transport our energy resources more effectively when Texas experienced its deep freeze. Lamb went on to discuss that Shell constructed the Cracker plant in Potter Township, Beaver County for two very specific reasons: first, Western Pennsylvania has an abundance of natural gas and energy resources, and second, its location sits on the waterways which is conducive for the company to transport building materials to the site.
Lamb is a member of the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of more than 50 bipartisan lawmakers that work together to try and find compromises on major issues challenging our nation. He provided an update on the caucus’ work and said they will soon be introducing a detailed report outlining the areas of infrastructure investment that republican and democratic lawmakers agree on. It is his hope that their report will be pave the way for legislation to be introduced that will be based on some of the proposals that President Biden’s plan calls for.
Towards that end, while Rep. Kail said he is hopeful that true bipartisanship on this issue can happen among members of Congress in D.C., there are things that state lawmakers, like himself and others, can do to support infrastructure development in Pennsylvania. Kail said that Western Pennsylvania is ripe for job creation because the region is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, like natural gas, and that the state needs to celebrate and promote the industry. He said if we don’t support the investments in pipeline development and the energy industry, then companies could leave and focus their efforts in countries like China. To Kail, that would be a major concern because it would limit our nation’s natural resources, force the U.S. to be dependent on foreign countries, and the energy would be produced in regions that do not have environmental regulations.