Yudichak's Senate committee examines Pa.'s natural gas infrastructure

Oct. 6—State Sen. John Yudichak, chairman of the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee, Tuesday said "a radical environmental agenda driven by blind ideology over good science is promoting a false premise that the only climate solution is to end natural gas production in the United States."

Chaired by Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, the committee held a joint hearing Monday on Pennsylvania's natural gas infrastructure, and discussed how neglecting an investment in energy infrastructure negatively impacts consumers and the economy.

The hearing was held at the Capitol in conjunction with the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Williamsport).

"Pennsylvania is a world leader in natural gas production which has bolstered our economy and enhanced our ability to reduce carbon emissions by 34% over the last decade," Yudichak said. "Failing to invest in modern energy infrastructure, like state-of-the art pipelines and manufacturing technologies, will devastate Pennsylvania's economy, increase utility bills on consumers, and weaken our efforts to address climate change."

Yudichak noted that over the past three years in the Keystone State, four cancelled natural gas and manufacturing projects have resulted in a direct economic loss of more than $4 billion, millions of work hours for construction trade workers, and thousands of jobs.

Yudichak said Philadelphia Energy Solutions recently quelled a refinery project, US Steel shut down a $1.5 billion manufacturing endeavor in Allegheny County, a northeast supply enhancement project was halted in 2020, and just recently, UGI and its partners announced the suspension of a $1 billion PennEast pipeline project, adversely impacting thousands of northeastern Pennsylvania building trades jobs.

Regulatory permitting procedures, frivolous lawsuits and radical ideology perpetuated by environmental extremists were cited as rationale for putting the brakes on the projects, Yudichak said.

"Lack of pipeline infrastructure in the Northeast has resulted in some of the highest electric rates in the United States for families and businesses," said Sen. Yaw. "It's only going to get worse, thanks to restrictive energy policies and foreign-funded anti fossil fuel groups pushing to 'keep it in the ground'."

Speakers included Steamfitters Local 420 Business Manager Jim Snell, who pointed out that his group services Pennsylvania's entire gas pipeline distribution system and "demand for clean-burning natural gas remains high." He cited a forecast predicting that industrial consumption of natural gas will increase 35 percent between now and 2050.

"If we want to meet these clean energy goals, then we will need new infrastructure and a skilled workforce," explained Snell. "The pipeline constraints that currently limit market access — affecting consumers, businesses and manufacturers — will only grow worse without projects like PennEast and enhanced investments in pipeline infrastructure."

Additionally, Snell pointed out that pipelines are "critical to the fight against climate change."

"With the safe, efficient transport of natural gas...to wider markets, electric sector-related emissions greatly decreased since 2005 as natural gas production and use has increased," Snell said. "This has led to cleaner air across the Commonwealth."

Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry Director of Government Affairs Kevin Sunday told committee members that expanded natural gas infrastructure is necessary to provide reliable energy to the region, power the economy and meet climate goals.

"Unfortunately, at the behest of activists, the governments of New York and New Jersey have attempted to obstruct several pipeline projects that would have delivered additional gas to New England," said Sunday, while explaining that annual electricity bills could rise by more than $150 million per year in that area.

"Instead, these residents will have to use more expensive and less efficient space heating options," said Sunday.

Other testifiers included Marcellus Shale Coalition President Dave Callahan, Laborers District Council of Eastern PA Business Manager Tony Seiwell, PA Manufacturers Association President Dave Taylor, Consumer Energy Alliance Mid Atlantic Executive Director Mike Butler, New Jersey Business & Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor, and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Interim Acting Consumer Advocate Christine Maloni Hoover.

Currently, the United States generates 80 percent of its energy from coal, petroleum and natural gas. Despite that reliance on fossil fuels, the country leads the world in reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Since 2005, emissions have declined in the U.S. by 758 million metric tons, more than any country in the world.

"Cleaner burning fuel, energy efficiencies, a smarter electric grid and countless technological advances in the energy industry have all been sparked by legislative policies in Pennsylvania that have supported a robust portfolio of natural resources, nuclear power and renewable energy sources," Yudichak said. "Our energy portfolio is the envy of other states and most nations of the world. It represents billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs, but radical environmentalists want to put the PA energy industry and building trade unions out of business."