Posted April 20, 2016
Americans in the building construction trades know the importance of new energy infrastructure. Building things is what they do. In recent years they’ve recognized the value of partnering with the oil and natural gas industry on infrastructure projects to deliver energy, create jobs and boost the economy – all benefits of America’s ongoing energy revolution.
At this week’s Washington legislative conference of North America’s Building Trades Union, NABTU President Sean McGarvey listed energy infrastructure among the union’s top priorities in 2016 and noted the importance of forming partnerships to advance shared goals, such as infrastructure:
“There are other ways, too, in which our unions are building that go beyond the jobsite, such as building a new labor-management paradigm in the United States through formal partnerships with entire industries and individual companies.”
Nowhere is this dynamic more timely and important than in the effort to build new natural gas pipelines in the Northeast, where constricted capacity historically has contributed to higher energy costs during peak winter months. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New Englanders paid up to 68 percent more than the national average for electricity and the industrial sector up to 105 percent more than the national average in the winter of 2014.
This can be helped with additional infrastructure – new pipelines, pipeline expansions, storage and other facilities. The proposed $683 million Constitution Pipeline, for example, would link natural gas-producing areas in Pennsylvania with counties in southern New York. Unfortunately, the project continues to be delayed by state government red tape.
Both the Business Council of New York State and the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council are urging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to get behind the pipeline. Heather C. Briccetti, president & CEO of the business council:
“Fortunately, this past winter was mild throughout the Northeast, which kept natural gas demand relatively low. But it was only a short time ago that New York experienced one of the harshest winters on record, reminding us of how critical it is to have a robust energy supply infrastructure which meets the needs of all residents. Besides ensuring adequate supplies, modern energy infrastructure is critical to delivery energy at a reasonable and competitive price. When infrastructure cannot meet current needs, especially in time of extreme cold or hot weather, residential and commercial users feel the economic squeeze.”
Interestingly, Cuomo made a number of pro-construction, pro-infrastructure points during a speech to the NABTU’s legislative council:
“How we build is how we grow. It determines our development patterns, our housing patterns, our business patterns, our transportation patterns, and construction. And the signs of construction actually have a very positive impact on the nation’s psyche. People see growth, people see construction and they believe you’re moving ahead.”
There’s certainly opportunity for applying that mindset to the nation’s energy infrastructure needs, which would deliver broad benefits including energy, jobs and economic growth. An IHS study estimated that total oil and natural gas transportation and storage infrastructure investment over the next decade could total $1.15 trillion, creating more than a million jobs. In the process, the partnership between the energy industry and America’s construction trades workers would further develop. Jack Gerard, API president and CEO, also addressed the NABTU conference:
“At the core of our partnership is our common goal to protect and promote job growth and economic opportunity for American workers. The partnership between the oil and natural gas industry and North America’s Building Trades Unions is critical to ensuring that our nation continues as a global energy leader and that consumers continue to enjoy abundant, reliable and affordable energy here at home. Put simply, these benefits of America’s energy revolution are built upon the hard work of you and your brothers and sisters across our nation. Together we have brought about an American energy revolution that has delivered positive change to America’s workers, consumers and environment.”
Gerard said getting America’s energy policy right – which includes clearing unnecessary hindrances to infrastructure permitting and approval – is about extending economic opportunity and also strengthening the United States’ ability to compete globally. Gerard said the 2016 elections are critically important to ensuring the right policies are in place to ensure energy security today and tomorrow. Gerard:
“The electoral decisions we collectively make in 2016 will be fundamental to the trajectory of our nation’s energy, economic and national security future. … We should demand that those who lead us have the courage and wisdom to shun the political ideology of the past and to stand with us, you and I, industry and labor to create economic opportunity for all Americans. Because history confirms that America’s greatness, be it in energy or any other important endeavor, has been earned by the sweat, the determination and the commitment to excellence of America’s workforce.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.