COULD PHILADELPHIA BECOME THE GREAT ENERGY HUB OF THE NORTHEAST?
Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP
This article was originally published in Keystone Business 2015 – Keystone Conference on Business and Policy
One of the most exciting developments to happen to the Philadelphia metropolitan economy has been the advent of the availability of large quantities of affordable natural gas from the Marcellus Region, parts of which are within easy driving distance of the city. The discovery of the formations has Pennsylvania at the center of an international geo-political energy discussion, and the Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team (GPEAT) is working to maximize these opportunities. Philadelphia has the logistical attributes to take the resource in its backyard, and parlay that natural asset into entirely new lines of industry and business in the region. Investment capital and opportunities following into the Philadelphia area at an unprecedented rate, raising the very real prospect that Philadelphia can become the great energy hub of the Northeast, providing credible long-term market competition to the Gulf States.
We have watched a revival of shuttered plants and reinvigorated shattered labor careers, and there are now more than 1,000 Philadelphians with jobs directly linked to these plants that Philadelphia Energy Solutions, Monroe Energy and Sunoco Logistics run, each of which support scores of other jobs in the local economy. This success can be expanded greatly on a regional basis with the implementation of a well-thought out, all-in energy hub, resulting in tens of thousands of desperately needed jobs in the region.
Just this summer, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission released its long-awaited study on the impact of Marcellus Shale development on Pennsylvania’s waterways. The report relied upon actual data collected over a three-year period, and announced that the natural gas development has had no impact on the water quality of streams, rivers and watersheds in Pennsylvania and New York. Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others have found it to be a safe means of deriving the massive amounts of energy required to fulfill our needs for the foreseeable future.
However, it is also fair to say there are no “environmental freebies” in the energy universe. If not developed properly, natural gas can impose burdens on the environment, and GPEAT is committed to the development of a responsible energy hub. The lessons of the old coal industry here at home, and the old gas industry in the Gulf have not been lost. The development of natural gas resources merits a dialogue based on data and science, like the clear data generated by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the EPA discussed above, demonstrating the safety of the shale gas industry or the need for transition from a coal economy.
Moreover, the renewable energy industry, particularly the solar industry, can actually flourish in Philadelphia due to an energy hub that includes natural gas. With the natural gas and related liquids available from the region’s shale gas as part of the energy hub, we can drive the industrial gases needed to create the solar chips necessary to manufacture a solar panel, power the silicon smelters needed to melt the silica required to manufacture silicon wafers, and more efficiently power the heavy equipment needed to mine silica sand, which is indeed abundant in the region, especially in sand-rich New Jersey. Again, each of these industrial facilities will need local citizens to fill their employee rosters, further boosting the local economy.
Philadelphia needs to be an all-in, all-inclusive energy hub. Because of our location and the increasing support of the energy hub concept, Philadelphia is poised to be the center of energy development in the densely populated Northeast. This hub will reinfuse our region with jobs and economic opportunity, and put Philly back at the center of industrial greatness. A hub that includes natural gas will provide for advanced manufacturing, refining, chemical production and the energy needed to power our future. It will also provide the raw materials for the development of wind, solar and innumerable other technologies.
This article is being provided for informational purposes only and not for the purposes of providing legal advice or creating an attorney-client relationship. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem you may have. In addition, the opinions expressed herein are the opinions of Mr. Levine and may not reflect the opinions of Synergy Environmental, Inc., Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP or either of those firms’ clients.