Penn­syl­va­nia needs to pro­mote in­fra­struc­ture-en­ergy jobs

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - OPINION -

Af­ter a chal­leng­ing 2016, we’re be­gin­ning to see signs of a frag­ile en­ergy mar­ket re­cov­ery.

With ef­forts at the fed­eral level to re­form taxes and re­duce bu­reau­cratic red tape, states are en­gaged in a fierce com­pe­ti­tion for cap­i­tal and job-cre­at­ing in­vest­ment re­sources. En­ergy-pro­duc­ing states have an ad­van­tage if they have the right poli­cies in place and many are in over­drive, work­ing to strengthen their busi­ness cli­mates to win in­vest­ments that will lead to more jobs and eco­nomic growth.

Penn­syl­va­nia must ei­ther com­mit to com­pete or re­sign to lose in the ef­fort to at­tract jobcre­at­ing cap­i­tal in­vest­ment. Los­ing can­not be an ac­cept­able op­tion.

Mov­ing for­ward with crit­i­cal en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture projects is a good place to start and key to re­al­iz­ing Penn­syl­va­nia’s man­u­fac­tur­ing op­por­tu­nity. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by the re­search and con­sult­ing com­pany IHS — which was com­mis­sioned by the Wolf ad­min­is­tra­tion — Penn­syl­va­nia’s abun­dant shale re­sources present a multi­bil­lion­dol­lar op­por­tu­nity to trans­form the state into a na­tional petro­chem­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing leader.

Re­al­iz­ing that full man­u­fac­tur­ing op­por­tu­nity, as IHS notes, re­quires more reg­u­la­tory cer­tainty and pre­dictabil­ity at the state level.

Un­for­tu­nately, Penn­syl­va­nia is fall­ing be­hind and will con­tinue to miss out if we don’t get out of our own way. From per­mit­ting log­jams, to Gov. Tom Wolf’s pro­posed en­ergy tax in­crease, to a reg­u­la­tory on­slaught, the state loses out on op­por­tu­ni­ties to at­tract in­vest­ment cap­i­tal, cre­ate jobs and seize new busi­ness growth.

As The Associated Press re­cently re­ported, the state Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion has de­layed ac­tion on some per­mits needed to de­velop nat­u­ral gas re­sources. Not only are de­lays ris­ing, but in some in­stances, it takes more than a year to re­ceive a per­mit that should only take a few weeks to re­view and process.

Per­mit­ting de­lays, cou­pled with new bur­den­some reg­u­la­tions and per­mit pro­pos­als, raise the cost of do­ing busi­ness in an al­ready high-cost en­vi­ron­ment. Penn­syl­va­nia’s web of bu­reau­cracy drives in­vest­ment to other, more-com­pet­i­tive lo­ca­tions across the coun­try and the world.

On top of this, the Wolf ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to pur­sue a mas­sive en­ergy tax in­crease sug­gest­ing that com­pa­nies do not fac­tor the cost to op­er­ate as part of their in­vest­ment de­ci­sions. This is sim­ply not true and dis­re­gards eco­nomic re­al­ity.

Penn­syl­va­nia has a unique tax on nat­u­ral gas, called the im­pact fee, which has gen­er­ated more than $1 bil­lion for com­mu­ni­ties. En­cour­ag­ing tax in­creases on Penn­syl­va­nia busi­nesses and in­dus­tries while se­lec­tively wooing other com­pa­nies with in­cen­tives and grants is a mis­guided and dan­ger­ous ap­proach that will cost Penn­syl­va­nia jobs and long-term eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

We must rec­og­nize that we can­not tax job cre­ators into in­vest­ing here.

Poli­cies re­flect pri­or­i­ties and our pri­or­i­ties must be to grow jobs, in­crease nat­u­ral gas use and ad­vance ini­tia­tives that wel­come — rather than dis­cour­age — in­vest­ment.

Penn­syl­va­nia sits atop one of the world’s largest nat­u­ral gas re­sources in the world. With our en­ergy ad­van­tage, we have the po­ten­tial to kick-start man­u­fac­tur­ing and cre­ate job op­por­tu­ni­ties for gen­er­a­tions.

It’s time to fo­cus on cre­at­ing a com­pet­i­tive tax and reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages in­vest­ment, growth and job cre­ation. To bor­row a phrase from Wolf, we need “a gov­ern­ment that works,” to en­sure we max­i­mize th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties for ev­ery Penn­syl­va­nian. David Spigelmyer is the pres­i­dent of the Pitts­burgh­based Mar­cel­lus Shale Coali­tion.

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