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State Rep. Martina White’s LNG Task Force could unlock the true potential of Pennsylvania’s natural gas

March 11, 2023 Energy

A little-publicized state House natural gas task force could lead to the most profound boost in years to the state’s economy, and with it, the nation’s security.

State Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia), who chairs the newly created Philadelphia Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Export Task Force, points out that the natural gas exports out of Philadelphia would provide our country and our allies overseas with plentiful, affordable natural gas while sustaining tens of thousands of Pennsylvania jobs. Many of these European allies are in particular need of LNG after ending trade with Russia, their traditional supplier, after the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine. The exported American LNG would have the added bonus of reducing carbon emissions worldwide.

“There are global ramifications in carbon reduction,” White said at a PMA/PA Chamber Business Briefing recently. “Natural gas is the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon, producing around half the carbon dioxide and just one tenth of the air pollutants of coal when burned to generate electricity. This has the potential to reduce near-term CO2 emissions and air pollution by using gas instead of coal.”

Natural gas is also cheaper to produce than other forms of energy, White pointed out. The most efficient gas-fired plant has investment costs of $1,100 per kilowatt compared with $3,700 for the most efficient coal-fired plant.

Another plus is that the port project will be an all-Pennsylvania effort, meaning it could avoid much of the interference of the Biden Administration’s intent on stifling the development of domestic energy.  

“Building an LNG terminal somewhere on the Delaware could avoid the federal process that’s often a choke point for development,” said PMA President & CEO David N. Taylor. “The project would strengthen American energy independence, U.S. global leadership, and energy affordability for Pennsylvanians and other domestic customers. The immense volume of natural gas Pennsylvania producers can deliver will create thousands of jobs on the drill site, in pipeline construction, at the LNG terminal, and in support of all those activities.”

The Task Force’s recommendations on how to make a Philadelphia terminal happen are due by November of this year.

There is no downside here, save for the predictable opposition from a few “costumed protestors,” as Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Chairman Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) characterized radical environmentalists who disrupted a hearing on the issue in the fall.

The available volume of Pennsylvania natural gas is massive, and replacing Russia as an energy source would further undermine Vladimir Putin’s ability to wage war and prevent him from spreading terror beyond Ukraine.

Pennsylvania produces roughly 22% of all domestic natural gas and could replace nearly three-quarters of Russian gas currently imported into Europe.

“China, as it makes its own gas transition in the coming decade, would likewise turn to us for LNG, further immobilizing Russia’s war machine and any further turmoil President Vladimir Putin may cause,” Yaw wrote in a recent commentary.

The terminal would have an enormous benefit right here at home, as well. The New England states, stymied by Albany’s stonewalling of new pipeline development that would deliver natural gas cheaply and safely, have at times relied on Russian LNG, which is produced with no regard for the environment. 

And as Yaw further explained, Pennsylvania is home to an extensive pipeline infrastructure that could be easily expanded to meet international demand – and the skilled workforce to build and maintain it. According to some industry experts, ramping up production could create an additional 200,000 jobs in the Appalachian region over the next decade.

“There is no carbon-neutral future without natural gas in the present,” he wrote. “We have the power to produce and export the world’s cleanest LNG, while keeping emissions low and freeing European countries from Russia’s energy stranglehold. It seems pretty clear to me what our next steps should be.”

One member of the task force, Jim Snell, Business Manager of the Steamfitters Local 420 out of Philadelphia, told committee members at the fall hearing that the several hundred members of Steamfitters Local 420 have nearly 120 years of experience constructing, installing, and maintaining mechanical systems.

“The union believes so much in the power of LNG that it offered to host our Senate hearing last year. Snell said himself there could be no more appropriate venue than its Philadelphia headquarters,” Yaw said.

Finally, Pennsylvania landowners stand to earn millions in royalty payments from increased domestic energy production. All for all these benefits, the project won’t cost taxpayers a penny.

“This is a special honor as Pennsylvania must better use the ports in Philadelphia and Southeast Pennsylvania to ship the state’s natural gas resources to the rest of the world,” White said. “This will not only create good-paying jobs throughout our region but help make us the leading energy exporter.”

Everyone wins with this project, except for a few “costumed protestors.”