July 27, 2015
By James T. Kunz Jr., IUOE Local 66 Business Manager
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – From mining in Hazleton, to steel in Pittsburgh, to high-tech corridors, Pennsylvania's labor force has been an integral component to growing our state's economy. A lot of the buildings in our great state were built by the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Now we are applying our skills to our state's next great economic engine, natural gas pipelines.
As a member of this organization, I've watched our members supply trained, qualified workers to help build Pennsylvania's economy. Our organization covers 33 counties in Western Pennsylvania and is made up of over 7,000 members. We take pride in developing Pennsylvania because this is our home.
Pennsylvania sits atop one of the world's largest natural gas reserves. Given the natural resources readily available, we have an opportunity to continue growing our economy. In fact, state jobs in the oil and gas sector last year totaled more than 33,000. But to make the most of those natural resources, Pennsylvania must upgrade existing and build new energy infrastructure to connect our energy resources to consumers and businesses.
For this reason, our organization recently joined the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, a group that supports developing our energy infrastructure. As pipeline infrastructure continues to grow, opportunities to develop and transport energy resources safely across our state continue to grow our economy.
These types of large-scale infrastructure projects, like the Mariner East projects, create new opportunities, such as the expansion of the Marcus Hook industrial complex. These projects will have a long-term, positive impact on the entire commonwealth.
When the construction phase on Mariner East project ends, there will be 300-400 permanent jobs remaining for decades. And that doesn't include upgrades and replacements either on the pipeline or at Marcus Hook.
Also, these projects will provide critical apprenticeship training, salaries to support families and benefits to the state through payroll taxes. In addition, investment the project will attract as the region is transformed into an East Coast energy hub will deliver new economic growth opportunities.
We recognize that pipeline safety should be part of any pipeline discussion. The Mariner East pipeline will be constructed utilizing the latest in metallurgical advances, state-of-the-art design, construction and maintenance, and the commitment of skilled workers whose families live along the route of the pipeline and in the vicinity of the Marcus Hook facility. In addition, studies have shown that moving natural gas and NGLs through modern pipelines is many times safer than using trucks or rail cars.
The places where we work on these pipelines are also the places we play at parks with our kids and take part in other activities that make up a community. We want to see our neighborhoods grow and thrive, too.
The economic benefits of natural gas in the huge Marcellus and Utica shale formations that have already transformed life in Western Pennsylvania will help ensure the same transformation to Delaware County and Eastern Pennsylvania.
Our organization works hard to make sure we are equipped to safely handle new infrastructure development. So, when opportunities like the Mariner East 2 projects come to town, we are ready to ensure that we can grow our economy by safely building these new developments.
*** This article first appeared July 23, 2015 in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – TribLIVE