The Mon Valley economy, once flourishing thanks to steel-making, is being reborn.

And the key is cleaner, cheaper, domestically generated energy. Advancements in new technologies have made new energy resources available to the U.S. market; the only trick is ensuring we move it safely and efficiently across our state and region. That is why new pipelines for the region, like the new Mariner East 2, are so important.

The steel mills closed when they could not compete with foreign and domestic rivals that found ways to make quality steel for less. For manufacturers, keeping production costs low is necessary to survival in our highly competitive world. Indeed, our organization, the Mon Valley Progress Council, was founded in 1965 by Mid-Mon Valley business leaders who saw the need for regionally-based actions to address the closure of the first integrated steel mill to close in the United States, the U.S. Steel Donora Works, and related economic challenges.

To revive manufacturing in the Mon Valley today, it is essential that the region have access to abundant sources of low-cost energy.

The original Mariner East pipeline was built to bring 70,000 barrels a day of much-needed natural gas liquids from Western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale fields to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. The second phase, Mariner East 2, will raise that capacity to 345,000 barrels a day by extending the project’s reach into Ohio and West Virginia.

This infusion of natural gas liquids is exactly what the Mon Valley needs --- and it’s why the Mon Valley Progress Council has joined the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, a broad-based coalition advocating for timely approval for critical energy infrastructure projects. We need safe, reliable access to large quantities of affordable energy to help revive our manufacturing base and heavy industries.

Everyone talks about the need for quality infrastructure. Without a good transportation network and good schools, it is hard to attract investment. But underlying it all is energy. That energy requires infrastructure of its own. Today, pipelines that bring natural gas liquids to the region are the most important infrastructure of all. These liquids can fuel the growth this region is capable of experiencing once again, but only if they can be transported here safely and cost-effectively.

The Mariner East pipeline projects will achieve that safe and cost-effective transportation. And in the process, they will provide important economic stimulation of their own. The projects will generate $4.2 billion for the Pennsylvania economy and support 30,000 jobs along its route during construction. Once operational, they will generate $100-$150 million in annual economic impact and support 300-400 jobs.

With these pipelines completed, the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex could be the No. 1 hub for natural gas liquids on the East Coast. Imagine the draw having an asset like that in Pennsylvania’s backyard would be for manufacturers and other businesses seeking a steady, reliable source of low-cost energy. The benefits would extend across our communities, with investment and new manufacturing operations boosting local job creation, tax revenues, and spending at local businesses.

The ability to attract employers with an abundant supply of affordable clean energy would be transformational for the region. It would mean more jobs and more economic activity for existing businesses. It also would mean lower energy prices for everyone.

In the severe winter of 2013-14, a giant spike in demand for propane created a shortage and caused a 30 percent price increase. It hurt businesses and families and made the region look less attractive than other parts of the country. Turning Marcus Hook into the East Coast’s top hub for natural gas liquids would make that sort of disruption in the local energy supply extremely unlikely in the future.

Pipeline projects are essential infrastructure projects for the Mon Valley. With them, we have our best shot at rebuilding the industrial and commercial economy that has suffered so much in the last several decades. Without them, we will remain at a competitive disadvantage.

(1) comment

Barry S

Joe, Well written and right on point!

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