Permitting reform critical in cementing PA’s energy leadership

Note: This editorial originally appeared in Broad + Liberty.

World energy markets remain in turmoil as Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine invited sanctions and a long-needed rethink of global energy policy. Markets around the world have strongly signaled they are willing to pay a premium for American energy, having seen how Putin has used proceeds from Russian oil and gas to help fuel his invasion.

Pennsylvania is awash with enough energy resources to meet this demand, while keeping prices lower for consumers domestically – we just need the infrastructure to deliver it and the regulatory environment to build.

Our state has huge reserves of natural gas and coal, not to mention decades of knowledge and supply chain in the nuclear, grid management, and renewables spaces. Most importantly, we have a skilled and ready workforce that is ready to get to work to deliver energy safely to homes and businesses and to move it overseas to growing economies that want to trade with free market democracies like the United States.

How will we do it? It will take expanding Pennsylvania’s ability to move gas to market, including through an export facility in the southeastern part of the state. Such a project would mean tens of thousands of man-hours for good-paying jobs in the skilled trades, while helping to grow the economy and providing cleaner, American-made energy to our allies.

A study is currently underway to examine how Pennsylvania could become a leading player in the global energy marketplace by exporting liquid natural gas (LNG). The Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force, a bipartisan coalition comprised of public officials, industry leaders, and building and trades representatives, is conducting a series of hearings to develop a report on the subject, which is expected later this year.

Building an LNG export facility would not only create jobs in the skilled trades; its establishment would also support permanent employment opportunities throughout the entire greater Philadelphia region.

Research demonstrates that every direct job in the natural gas and oil industry generates at least three and a half additional jobs in Pennsylvania. Beyond these workforce opportunities, revenues generated from natural gas exports can also help contribute to the wellbeing of the regional economy.

To make an LNG export terminal a reality, however, we need comprehensive permitting reform.

By one estimate, it takes an average of 4.5 years for energy infrastructure projects to undergo environmental reviews. This process can delay critical projects – like the Mountain Valley Pipeline proposed in Appalachia – and force others to be canceled entirely. When this happens, potential benefits for local economies (like job creation and economic development) go unrealized.

Reforming our state and federal permitting processes is essential for producing and supplying all sources of energy and making progress on emissions reduction.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle in Washington and Harrisburg have recognized that addressing the challenges of fighting climate change while ensuring abundant, affordable energy will only happen when policy promotes innovation and building new projects in the United States. The non-partisan policy think tank Common Good estimates permitting delays on energy projects cost the nation trillions in public health costs, and the Property and Environment Research Center has pointed to slow federal reviews of forest management as a contributor to wildfires plaguing the Mountain West.

The Port of Philadelphia is the most efficient facility of its kind in the nation, and it is a key infrastructure asset to the state’s quality of life and economic climate. Expanding shipments of goods and energy, including through an LNG terminal in southeastern Pennsylvania will be a boon for workers, consumers, businesses, and families, here and abroad.

As bad actors continue to disrupt global energy markets, Pennsylvania can be a leading state among nations in exporting cleaner oil and gas – and in the process, strengthening national security for America and our allies.

Jon Anzur is the Vice President of Public Affairs at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.