February 3, 2020
Stephanie Catarino Wissman
As we enter this new decade, it’s worth acknowledging America’s energy progress over the past ten years, both economic and environmental, and the role Pennsylvania has played in the U.S. equation. The shale revolution redefined the domestic natural gas and oil sector, propelling the United States to become the world’s leading energy producer in 2018.
More recently, our nation became a net exporter of crude and petroleum products for the first time in 70 years, while U.S. carbon dioxide emissions remain at their lowest levels since 1987 and are expected to decline this year over last year. No longer are we beholden to foreign sources of energy.
This growth is impressive and increasingly important because, as the global demand for energy continues to rise, natural gas and oil are still essential to our modern lives. These fuels power the products and processes that enable our everyday life in areas such as transportation, communication, healthcare and more.
Here in Pennsylvania, natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale – bolstered by advanced technologies, like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling –provides affordable energy for families across the Commonwealth. Natural gas is fundamental to balancing the dual challenges of energy consumption and environmental progress, and as a reliable and cleaner-burning fuel, its growing stake in power generation is a leading driver of emissions reductions.
As energy operators in Pennsylvania contribute to this climate progress, industry-led initiatives are simultaneously promoting aggressive air quality improvements. In December 2017, 26 natural gas and oil production companies voluntarily committed to implementing programs that would target methane emissions and improve environmental performance. Two years later, The Environmental Partnership has grown to 70 members, including 32 of the top 40 U.S. natural gas producers, representing more than one-third of U.S. energy production.
Since its launch, the Partnership has been implemented in 18 of 21 top-producing states – including Pennsylvania – where participants have conducted surveys across nearly 80,000 production sites and inspected millions of infrastructure components. The program’s emphasis on advanced technologies and information sharing has gathered experts for annual conferences and regional workshops and provided funding for emissions detection testing and related research.
Advanced operations and innovative technologies have seen methane emissions from the energy industry fall 14 percent since 1990, even as production surged by 50 percent. The voluntary initiative’s focus on methane emissions is both a business priority and an environmental imperative, and this data reveals what’s possible when industry leadership meets successful public policy.
Notably, natural gas development in Pennsylvania also supports the public good through county and municipal disbursements of state impact fees.
Since 2012, the Commonwealth has collected nearly $1.7 billion in revenues from the existing impact tax which contributes to the Unconventional Gas Well Fund, providing financial support for infrastructure and conservation projects. Additionally, the industry has made billions of dollars in royalty payments, pays business taxes and makes direct investments in the communities where they operate. By reinvesting their fair share, natural gas operators help to maintain and enhance the quality of life across every community in Pennsylvania.
Put simply, the story of American energy in 2020 is characterized by global leadership, responsible development and wide-ranging progress. For Pennsylvania’s natural gas and oil industry, this certainly rings true, with an added emphasis on safety for our communities, public health and the environment. Looking ahead, the Commonwealth’s operators are poised to remain at the forefront of U.S. energy and environmental solutions, providing affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy for decades to come.
Stephanie Catarino Wissman is the Executive Director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of PA, headquartered in Harrisburg.