The NESE pipeline project is mainly about getting more natural gas to New Yorkers but union welders turned out in Pennsylvania Amish country to support it.
I knew the hearing would be a good one when I saw the welding trucks arrive. As several of them pulled up to the doors of the Solanco High School in Quarryvile, Pennsylvania, it became obvious there would be more supporters of the project than enemies attending. Indeed, I didn’t see any of the kooky fractivists who typically show up at these things. There were no NIMBYs either and no fatuous speeches by the self-righteous trust-funder types who often show to do some virtue-signaling. Quarryville is in the Pennsylvania Amish country of Lancaster County so perhaps the humility was contagious. I certainly saw a lot of it in the union welders who came out when I interviewed them.
I was there to testify myself on behalf of Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline project, but it was those union welders who sent the strongest message. There were perhaps 20 of them, including some family members, which was nice to see as these pipeline projects are family-sustaining livelihoods for union welders. They reminded me of my father-in-law, Eddie O’Neill who welded on tanks in France and Germany during World War II and came back to raise a beautiful family on the earnings from his welding business, which included work on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline a short distance from where my wife and I now live.
I spoke to two members of Pipeliners Local 798, one with 50 years of experience and the other, now retired, having spent 60 years working on pipelines. Here’s Guy Williams, Recording Secretary of Local 798, who already has a half-century in helping to build the nation’s energy infrastructure:
Two things comes through loud and clear in Guy’s remarks. First, his sincerity as he talks about the importance of these jobs to the families the unions represent. They’re anything but temporary employment. Secondly, as Guy points out so nicely, his union, unlike some members of the industry, appreciates how important it is to directly, without apology, advocate for the pipelines that sustain their employment. I so wish others had the same “happy warrior” attitude. It’s an all-American thing.
I also interviewed Pennsylvanian John Post, who has three-score years among union welders and previously served as a business agent for Local 798:
A Pennsylvanian all his life, John, like Guy, pointed out the high value union welders bring vis-a-vis their extensive training for what are very high-tech jobs.
This, to me, is what the economic development brought by natural gas development is all about. It’s union welders earning a good living, it’s landowners receiving royalties to maintain their farms, it’s communities attracting business by getting access to natural gas and it’s about urban consumers of gas and electricity getting what are, in effect, big tax cuts via their energy savings, to say nothing of the huge reductions in emissions associated with energy production and use.
Those city dwellers—often New York City residents in this case—are also getting energy security as their usage of natural gas continues to grow. Quarryville, Pennsylvania, where the horses and buggies went by as I waited for the hearing to start, might seem far removed from the city, but it is here where a pipeline project will help to increase the flow of gas to the east and the metro area. It’s one of several elements of the NESE project and how ironic that the project faces more resistance from those city dwellers who will be served than the residents of a farm area where the pipeline already runs and will simply be upgraded. Perhaps, just perhaps, its because this is what the pipeline looks like:
There are other reasons to support the NESE, of course, which was the subject of my own testimony as I cited these points:
- New York City, which this project would serve, is already maxing out on available natural gas during its coldest days. According to Con Ed, natural-gas demand has increased 25% in the past six years.
- Overall, the number of New York City natural gas heated homes has grown by 18% in just seven years, with gains in every one of the five Boroughs and as high as 30% in the Bronx.
- New York’s conversion of boilers to burn natural gas has dramatically improved air quality throughout the City and saved as many as 600 lives per year previously lost to asthma and other afflictions from air pollution.
- The New York City Housing Authority is now saving tens of millions of dollars a year in fuel costs after converting a number of its buildings from heating oil to natural gas over the past few years.
- That natural gas is mostly produced in Pennsylvania and Ohio and is helping those areas at the same time with higher wages and improvements in every other measure of economic development in Susquehanna County, for instance.
- There’s also room to grow. Only 39% of Bronx and Manhattan households, and 61% of all New York City households, currently use natural gas to heat their homes. The upside potential for growth and cleaner air is huge.
- The project has the potential to displace nearly 16 million tons of CO2 annually – the equivalent of removing 3 million passenger cars from the roadways – annually. The benefits in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are, therefore, enormous.
- The metropolitan area needs energy security with respect to both natural disasters and foreign threats. Superstorm Sandy proved natural gas supplies were the most resilient energy resources and multiple routes into the area via pipelines are essential. This project serves that purpose.
- Natural gas, in contrast to politically correct renewables, requires no taxpayer subsidies and provides dispatchable energy on demand, which is the one essential thing actually required to develop renewables as supplementary sources of energy.
- Natural gas can be supplied via this pipeline project project, and others, from areas far removed from the metro area without significant transmission losses or NIMBY opposition costs always associated with attempts to locate energy production nearer the City.
- Natural gas supply increases will stimulate additional economic development in the areas where it’s delivered, due the cost advantages and reliability of the energy source. This will help make the metro area more competitive economically.
- Poor neighborhoods of New York City, especially public housing residents, desperately need more reliable, cleaner burning fuel equipment made possible by the availability of Marcellus Shale gas nearby, provided only that the pipelines exist to serve these projects. The Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline is such a project.
My points, though, paled in value to the staterment made by the mere presence of those union welders. My hat’s off to them. They know what it all means and how to advocate.
UPDATE: Also, see Guy Williams guest post here!