All Pennsylvanians want a pristine environment, more affordable energy and more jobs with family-sustaining wages. Some, however, argue that these equally important must-haves cannot be done together.
Examples include the continuing resistance against infrastructure projects like the PennEast and Marine East 2 pipelines, Gov. Tom Wolf’s repeated calls for a severance tax on local production and the proposal by the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban fracking, even though there’s no fracking there.
The false-choice argument that pits a healthy environment against energy development is perpetuated by a few well-intentioned activists who consistently say we should stop all local development and energy infrastructure.
It’s critical that industry does everything possible to reduce air emissions and ensure clean water. The state and region are leading the world in environmental progress, and by every measure, our air and water are cleaner today than they were five, 10, even 30 years ago. We’re making progress. That must continue.
But we must also provide realistic solutions to how we can help the nearly one in seven Pennsylvanians on food stamps struggling to pay their bills. We can do that by considering ways to lower their gas and electric costs.
It’s easy to forget the energy price spikes we endured just a few years ago, before statewide production of natural gas increased nearly 28-fold between 2007 and 2016 and utility and fuel costs dropped. Yet those in lower income brackets still spend a double-digit percentage of their pay on energy-related costs, even though economists advise 6 percent should be the max. And while social service programs that aid low-income families help, they don’t address the root problem — preventing bills from getting high to begin with. These programs also strain local and federal governments, which oftentimes don’t have the funds to assist.
What’s more, nearly a third of the wells drilled here since 2004 are inactive because there aren’t enough pipelines to move resources to market. That includes natural gas, which has helped lower industry emissions statewide by 30 percent.
Thanks to advances in technology, techniques, procedures and oversight, Pennsylvania can continue to be a leading green state and reap the economic and low-cost benefits local energy production and infrastructure can bring, provided we don’t impose more red tape and drive local producers and their jobs to other regions with more attractive and predictable tax structures and policy.
To do this, all sides must come to the table for an open and honest dialogue and check their political posturing at the door.
Mike Butler is Mid-Atlantic Director for the Consumer Energy Alliance. For more information, visit consumerenergyalliance.org.