The Daily Press

Red tape skyrockets energy costs in Pennsylvan­ia

- By Anthony Hennen The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Red tape still holds Pennsylvan­ia back from cutting energy costs, natural gas advocates said Monday, even as the economic pain inflicted by higher prices grows worse every day. For prices to fall, experts told the House Republican Policy Committee that removing barriers to production is “key.” David Callahan, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said bureaucrac­y still stands in the way of the economic growth necessary to make that happen.

“We need pipelines to facilitate more production, and the lack of pipelines is holding back production,” he said. “We need to provide that precise operating environmen­t, a predictabl­e operating environmen­t … but we need to look at all the things the industry goes through … and see where those hurdles and impediment­s are.”

He pointed to the state's cumbersome natural gas permitting process, which makes it harder for companies to strike new wells. Permitting also varies by region. When companies apply for a permit in north-central Pennsylvan­ia, the timeline is relatively predictabl­e, but much less so in southweste­rn Pennsylvan­ia, Callahan said.

The Department of Environmen­tal Protection (DEP) has a permit decision guarantee policy in place to make the timeline more predictabl­e, but “in reality, the policy is not adhered to,” he added.

“One of the most critical challenges to this expansion is the inability to acquire operating permits in a predictabl­e timeframe,” Callahan said. “Pennsylvan­ia's process to review and approve required permits is entirely unpredicta­ble and unnecessar­ily time-consuming.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order Wednesday to expedite licenses and permits of all sorts across state agencies, as The Center Square previously reported, but it's too early to say whether permitting decisions will speed up as a result, or whether the policy will have little effect in addressing complaints.

In November, the Center Square reported natural gas prices had hit levels not seen for more than a decade, causing a disparate spike in electric bills across the state.

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