Widespread Support Exists for Investing in Infrastructure

A sure winner for the incoming federal administration will be the development of a fiscally sound plan to rebuild and expand the nation’s infrastructure, including our energy infrastructure. Popular support for investment cuts across party lines – so much so that it was one of the few issues Trump and Clinton agreed on during a bitter campaign. A new survey by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), in association with the PMA, shows why. 

What came out of the poll, says PMA President David N. Taylor, is that Republicans, Democrats, union members, non-union workers, and even those who label themselves environmentalists, understand that the potential for job creation and growth in the energy sector alone are as enormous as the state’s reserves of affordable energy in the Marcellus and Utica shales.

“Pennsylvanians understand that in order to produce energy in Pennsylvania and get it to customers, we need expanded and upgraded infrastructure,” Taylor said. “They also understand that our families and communities will be better off when we invest in that infrastructure - from pipelines, ports and power lines, to airports, bridges, roads and waterways. We have a unique, generational opportunity to move the Commonwealth and our nation forward by leveraging our energy resources into much-needed job creation.”

Many of the elements of a broad infrastructure investment plan will require approval by Congress. For many oil and gas pipeline projects, the investments are private and the funding is at the ready. Those projects don’t need Washington’s support so much as they need Washington to give permission.

Help is on the way. President Elect Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil, and his nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Attorney General, are both on record as strongly supporting Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and other pipeline projects. Many of these projects have already checked-off every environmental and bureaucratic assignment box, but were sidelined by an Obama Administration accommodating a noisy few.

The NAM poll shows just how few: a mere nine percent of those surveyed oppose additional investment in home-grown energy. On the flip side of the energy question, the survey shows that 85 percent of Pennsylvanians support increasing our investment in our infrastructure, and 57 percent strongly support increasing our investment.

More than three-quarters (78 percent) of Clinton voters, and 93 percent of Trump voters, support increasing our investment. In addition, support for increasing energy development is consistent throughout the state, never falling below 78 percent in any region in Pennsylvania.

On the broader question of roads, bridges, rail and other infrastructure needs, the numbers are similarly strong. Overall, 87 percent of Pennsylvania voters believe if government and private industry were to invest in infrastructure it would have a positive impact. This view point holds among key sub-groups: 87 percent of both Republicans and Democrats believe it will have a positive impact; 90 percent of self-identified environmentalists believe it will have a positive impact; 90 percent of union workers and 87 percent of non-union members believe it will have a positive impact.

“At a time when our country needs to come together, critical infrastructure investment and domestic energy development could be a unifying cause to help grow our economy and win in the 21st century,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Modernizing and enhancing of our energy and transportation infrastructure will create good-paying American jobs, especially across the manufacturing supply chain, and ensure that we’re positioned to compete and win the global marketplace. Voters recognize this and are demanding action from Washington.”

As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt has a lengthy record of trying to contain the EPA within the limits of the law.

Since taking the office in 2011, he has been a party to at least eight federal lawsuits challenging the agency’s authority to impose regulations on states and businesses, particularly the oil and gas industry and coal-fired power generation plants. One action filed in July 2015 was against the now ill-fated “Clean Power Plan”, which he rightly characterized as “an unlawful attempt to expand federal bureaucrats’ authority over states’ energy economies in order to shutter coal-fired power plants and eventually other sources of fossil-fuel generated electricity.”

For his part, Tillerson said of the Keystone XL, the litmus test for the anti-traditional fuels movement, “it’s a tremendous resource opportunity to meet [the world’s] energy needs.”

Just one pipeline can make a world of difference. Consider the gains to consumers from the Trans-Hudson line, which brings natural gas from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to lower Manhattan. Less expensive generation of electricity and steam in Manhattan has saved New Yorkers $500 million from November 2013 to October 2016, according to ConEdison:

  • $224.4 million for gas customers.
  • $57.6 million for steam customers.
  • $210.6 million for electric customers.

We only have to look at what has been accomplished to see the benefits of investing in energy infrastructure alone. According to figures from the Marcellus Shale Coalition, energy development in Pennsylvania has created tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.

In addition, the Coalition cites a study by the global econometric firm IHS that shows development has saved consumers, families and manufacturers thousands of dollars in energy costs -- $1,200 per household in 2012 alone. Projections are those savings will exceed $3,500 per year by 2025. 

But the future is not guaranteed. The Coalition says that the lack of necessary infrastructure to move the gas to market continues to depress wellhead prices that producers receive. In fact, due to a lack of needed pipeline infrastructure, Pennsylvania producers and landowners continue to receive more than 60 percent less for their natural gas than producers receive in other basins across the country.

Pennsylvania is poised to become a leader amongst not just states, but of nations. However, we can’t do it without the first-class roads and bridges, adequate pipeline, and other tools we need to get us there. Both public opinion and the incoming presidential administration seem to be on our side in 2017.