Is the Window Closing for Pennsylvania to Benefit from Marcellus Gas Liquids?

The window of opportunity for Pennsylvania to take full advantage of the natural gas liquids produced from the Marcellus Shale is still open – for now. But if Pennsylvania’s leaders do not allow pipeline infrastructure projects to move forward more quickly, Pennsylvania risks losing out to other states.

There are a number of projects currently awaiting permits from state bodies; namely, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has yet to release permits for pipeline projects – Atlantic Sunrise, Constitution, Mariner East 2, and PennEast to name a few. As the Delaware County Daily Times editorialized this week, “Delaware County and the region may already be falling behind in what could be considered the great race to make Delaware County – in particular Marcus Hook – an energy hub for the entire northeastern United States. There is one thing Texas can boast that Delco and the rest of this region cannot: Infrastructure. Let us translate that for you. Think pipelines.”

Meanwhile, the Centennial Pipeline, owned by Enterprise Products Partners and Marathon Petroleum, has recently announced it is finalizing plans to take Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale products across the east coast and down to the Gulf.

The Centennial pipeline involves repurposing a 795-mile pipe, newly constructing only 150 miles, which makes the approval process faster and more efficient. This pipeline is on the cusp of being approved; and unfortunately, it will take local-produced energy and ship it abroad through Louisiana. The pipeline projects currently at a standstill, patiently awaiting permits in Pennsylvania would process those resources regionally, benefiting local business, homes, and farms. Moving the refining and transporting process outside of Pennsylvania means less investment and jobs here and more benefits for the Gulf Coast.

One example, the Mariner East 2 pipeline, would move some of those same liquids to eastern Pennsylvania for refining and processing before moving to consumers and markets. If the Centennial pipeline is approved and constructed before Mariner East, Louisiana and Texas will benefit from the manufacturing and job creation that comes from these Pennsylvania-developed energy products. To be more specific, that means missing out on the 7,000 local jobs the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline will support. Pennsylvania would be foolish to let these jobs slip by.

As Pennsylvania risks turning away new investment, such as investments at Marcus Hook or even the proposed western Pennsylvania Shell cracker. If we cannot create and approve the right infrastructure to process Marcellus liquids here in Pennsylvania, how can we expect companies to invest in our region? Failing to approve infrastructure that would support energy investment means companies will simply not come to Pennsylvania, and our communities will feel the hurt from limited job growth and negative economic advancements.

While it is vital that Pennsylvania have nation-leading standards, strong public review, and environmentally-friendly regulations, timely review is also critical. Our state cannot afford to grind our permitting and regulatory approval process to a halt. The Department of Environmental Protection and regulatory systems in Pennsylvania no longer operate in a vacuum – they are operating in a world where increased delay means projects will move to other states. It’s time for Pennsylvania’s leaders to fix this problem. Too many jobs and too much investment for our state’s future is at stake. We will miss our opportunity and the benefits of becoming the Northeast energy hub.