It’s time to build.
That was the message delivered by Williams — and echoed by the many laborers, supporters and officials in attendance — at a rally in Tunkhannock, Pa.
Beneath a backdrop of clear blue skies and a massive American flag, hundreds gathered in support of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project with a call to Pennsylvania legislators to construct energy infrastructure across the state.
“After an unprecedented amount of regulatory review, it’s finally time to build,” Mike Atchie, manager of public outreach for Williams, said. The nearly $3 billion project received the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval in February following a three-year review process.
The rally drew corporate leaders across several industries, legislators, natural gas workers and nonprofit organizers who urged Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration to promptly approve the state permits needed so that construction can begin on this critical energy infrastructure investment that’s forecasted to support approximately 8,000 jobs.
The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will create a crucial connection between Pennsylvania and consuming markets all along the East Coast. In the process, it will deliver economic growth, jobs and increased access to affordable, clean-burning energy, making the state a keystone in the mid-Atlantic region.
“This producing region of the Marcellus is constrained by the lack of pipeline capacity.” said Toby Mack, president of the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance, at the rally. “So much more gas could be produced and delivered for power generation, for homes and consumers, for heating, and for manufacturing if this pipeline were built.”
Local elected officials touted the benefits continued economic development throughout the state — a 2015 Pennsylvania State University study forecast the Atlantic Sunrise project to directly and indirectly support approximately 8,000 jobs in the 10 Pennsylvania counties during the project’s construction phase, resulting in an estimated $1.6 billion economic impact in the project area. And the jobs wouldn’t stop after the pipeline is built.
“Once that pipeline is in the ground and that gas can support other industries, it creates more job opportunities,” Joseph Lundy, of Cleveland Brothers Equipment, said.
Williams hopes to further help stimulate economic development with the launch of its WillShop Local app later this month. Project contractors will be able to connect with businesses and service providers along the project footprint through a mobile app, Atchie explained.
“We’re helping small businesses to capitalize on the massive investment we’re making,” Atchie said.
“The economic growth made possible by this project is astonishing,” Susquehanna County Commissioner Alan Hall said at the rally.
Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko also acknowledged pipelines as the safest, most efficient method of transporting energy.
“In Bradford County alone we’ve got 1,000 miles of installed pipeline — that means we could go from here to Miami, Florida, virtually,” McLinko said to the crowd. “Do you how many problems we’ve had? None.”
The 183-mile pipeline is nearing the end of its regulatory journey. Last month, more than 115 business, labor and community organizations — representing more than 77,000 members — and over 1,000 individuals voiced their support of the proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project during a round of public hearings hosted by the PA DEP. Commentators submitted support during the public hearings or through signed letters.
During the second PA DEP comment period, public hearings were held in Lancaster, Wyoming, Columbia and Lebanon counties — four of the 10 counties the planned pipeline will cross in the state. During the 30-day public comment period, officials received remarks from 2,546 commentators: 1,916 (75 percent) voiced support for Atlantic Sunrise, while 630 (25 percent) shared opposition to the project.
“It’s time for Pennsylvania to get back to business,” state Rep. Jonathan Fritz said.