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Pennsylvania PUC Sees Gas Benefits Across the Board

cost of renewables - Tom ShepstoneTom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW


Gladys Brown, Chair of the PA Public Utilities Commission (PUC) told legislators the state’s natural gas is providing consumers benefits across the board.

The House Appropriations Committee hearings this week picked up the pace a bit – the paint is drying a little faster and it’s becoming exciting. Well, I jest, of course, but the Pennsylvania PUC hearing was at least only 1.5 hours long, not the usual 2.5, so the talkative legislators may actually be tiring. Who knew?

Wednesday was the day for Pennsylvania PUC Chair Gladys Brown to be appear before the Committee and it only took three minutes before Jason Ortitay (Republican, Allegheny and Washington County) got to the most important thing. Ortitay asked Brown this important question:

Can you describe how the diversity of our portfolio, and access to abundant natural gas for new generation, has contributed to lower electricity costs for PA citizens and businesses?


Gladys Brown has been a fairly outspoken advocate for Pennsylvania developing its natural gas resources and her was her answer (emphasis added):

What we have seen over the years, of course, because of the abundance of Marcellus Shale that we have here in Pennsylvania, is more and more generation that is gas-fired generation and retirement of some of the coal plants…

We are very supportive of the diverse fuel mix we have and we prefer to use the resources we have here in Pennsylvania and we have a lot. So, it has been very beneficial. We have seen electricity prices that have gone down. We always say generally that people who don’t have natural gas in their homes are still benefiting from natural gas because of the fact it’s so cheap and with the use of it in generation we have seen those benefits across the board.

Ortitay followed by asking if Pennsylvania is seeing more conversions from coal to gas. Brown said “We’re seeing more and more of that,” at which point she asked Commissioner Robert Powelson to weigh in. He noted the Commonwealth had, since 2008 and before any Clean Power Plan, had replaced 10,000 megawatts of installed coal fueled generating capacity with natural gas. This has resulted in an incredible 68% reduction in gas purchase costs during the winter heating season. Wholesale power prices have dropped 56% as these gas savings have been passed through to electricity customers. 

New gas fueled power plant under construction in Lackawanna County

Powell also discussed what he called “market-based decarbonization,” explaining that gas conversions had also achieved a 28% reduction in NoX, SoX and Mercury emissions. All in all, he stated, the electricity generation fleet was much cleaner and had achieved much greater efficiency.

Although there were other gas questions raised and answers given about the role of the PUC versus FERC, severance taxes, capital investments and the like, none were as poignant as this discussion. Gas has saved Pennsylvanians billions while cleaning the air. What more needs to be said? Nothing. To quote Thomas Aquinas, the rest was “all straw.”

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