It's time to get creative on energy

If there is one issue all Pennsylvanians can rally behind, it's the need to create more jobs, improve our economy and position the Commonwealth to be a national and global economic leader.

Already, we are looking to capitalize on the opportunities presented to us by the abundance of clean, affordable natural gas. The Mariner East II pipeline will transport natural gas liquids produced in western Pennsylvania to the revitalized Marcus Hook complex in Delaware County.

It is estimated to generate $4.2 billion in economic impact and support more than 30,000 new Pennsylvania jobs.

Shell's petrochemical facility in Beaver County is projected to support 6,000 construction jobs and employ 600 Pennsylvanians once complete, and let's not forget the thousands of jobs we anticipate will be created as a result of ancillary industries and manufacturing growth.

There are also thousands of skilled trade union jobs that are necessary to build other critical infrastructure projects including PennEast, Atlantic Sunrise, Mariner East 2 and the Atlantic Coast pipelines.

All of these projects are designed to establish Pennsylvania as a key energy market in the country, and position the Commonwealth for a manufacturing renaissance.

Despite the success that could be touted when these projects are complete, Pennsylvania's unpredictable tax and regulatory climate serves as a barrier to future opportunities. Many consumers and businesses that support the use of natural gas, including those who benefit from the impact tax revenues, are realizing that government bureaucracy is hindering the Commonwealth from realizing its full potential.

As a result, Pennsylvania has lost its competitive advantage as some companies have diverted their capital investments to other states. Site Selection magazine has not ranked Pennsylvania in the Top 10 Competitive States in the U.S. since 2011. In fact, according to the most recent Site Selection rankings, a majority of the top states are either significant energy producing states or manufacturing hubs. Pennsylvania's absence is conspicuous.

A report recently released by IHS Markit and released by Team PA and the Department of Community and Economic Development underscores this point, stating that "Pennsylvania is using a limited portion of the available Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas and NGL in-state.

As such, it must begin taking immediate steps to support a long-term strategy that will maximize in-state-economic development - as other U.S. states and regions are also competing for the resources."

There is a small window of opportunity to get the energy equation right for Pennsylvania before additional opportunities are lost to competing states. While we can celebrate the Commonwealth landing the Shell petrochemical facility in western Pennsylvania, we lost Braskem America's $500 million investment to Texas.

If Pennsylvania wants to become a competitive target for investments capital and jobs once again, we must stop playing politics when it comes to the natural gas industry. Imposing additional, burdensome requirements on job-creators with little-to-no scientific basis impedes growth and discourages investment. Numerous studies have confirmed what we already know: tremendous economic and job opportunities exist for Pennsylvania residents if we can work to create a climate for investment.

Gene Barr is president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. Dennis Martire is vice-president and manager, Mid-Atlantic Division, Laborer's International Union of North America.