Investing in natural gas boosts union jobs and lowers prices

As New England and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere face a harsh winter, with a dramatic tightening of energy supplies around the world, consumers brace for what will likely be lower gas bills, d electricity and heating high for the rest of the season.

Boasting vast reserves of natural gas and a seasoned commitment to responsible operations, the U.S. natural gas transportation industry has the means and the desire to alleviate supply constraints and high energy prices by linking producers to consumers. But recently, several investments planned to create new gas pipelines and related infrastructure have been suspended or suspended due to legal and regulatory challenges.

In September, PennEast Pipeline Co. announced it was canceling its pipeline, designed to transport natural gas from the Marcellus/Utica shale in Pennsylvania to homes and businesses in New Jersey, because New Jersey was refusing necessary permits. The Northeast Supply Improvement Project, which could transport enough gas for 2 million homes in three states a day, has been delayed due to state regulatory complications. Work on the Mountain Valley pipeline is currently more than 90% complete, but the project has experienced years of delays due to opposition challenges and disputes over previously approved and acquired permits.

Canceled and delayed pipeline projects are driving up energy costs for Americans and killing thousands of well-paying union construction jobs. The Workers’ International Union of North America is one of the largest construction unions in the country, representing more than half a million members, with energy – primarily gas pipeline infrastructure – being a sector core of our work. Over the past decade, the natural gas industry has provided tens of millions of labor hours to LIUNA members, creating good construction jobs with family-supporting wages and benefits.

Thousands of LIUNA members spend their entire construction careers in the pipeline industry, developing the expertise and experience necessary to ensure these projects are built to the highest safety and quality standards. Delays and cancellations like those mentioned lead to chaos and economic uncertainty for construction workers and their families.

Despite resistance from regulators to building new infrastructure, demand on our existing systems continues to grow as families, businesses and power producers continue to reap the benefits of our nation’s natural gas resources. US natural gas consumption has increased 25% over the past decade and is expected to continue to rise.

Natural gas also has obvious environmental advantages and supports the energy transition. As the cleanest fossil fuel, natural gas is the cheapest, most flexible and reliable option to compensate for the intermittency characteristic of renewable energies. The successful combination of these fuels has made the United States a global climate leader.

The United States has reduced its CO2 emissions more than any other country since 2000, with the transition to a mix of natural gas and renewable energy resulting in a 33% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2019, even with a increasing electricity production. And there is still potential for more environmental gains. For example, natural gas infrastructure companies are exploring how to safely mix renewable hydrogen produced by wind or solar power in gas pipelines, which would further reduce emissions while building renewable energy capacity.

As we see it unfold in real time, exporting U.S. natural gas overseas can enable our allies and trading partners to achieve the same climate and economic progress as the United States. Our ability to deploy new fuels to support a clean energy future around the world is dependent on our ability to invest more in natural gas transportation and storage infrastructure here at home.

Fostering investment in natural gas infrastructure now – through sound policies and predictable regulations that protect both the environment and energy reliability – is essential given the expected increase in demand for natural gas. Member companies of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America are ready to make the necessary investments, and LIUNA members are ready to work. We call on decision makers in New England and across the country to work with us to achieve these goals.

Amy Andryszak is president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. Terry O’Sullivan is the General President of the Workers’ International Union of North America.

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