Industry leaders, legislators tout benefits of pipelines at Cleveland Brothers rally

What do the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays mean to Pennsylvanians?

For some, natural gas means jobs. For others, it means energy independence. For many communities, it means economic revitalization. All of these factors drew industry leaders and public officials together last week to celebrate the natural gas industry at a rally sponsored by the Energy Equipment & Infrastructure Alliance (EEIA).

Under a backdrop of cerulean skies (and a 60-foot-wide free-flying American flag), industry supporters gathered at rally host and co-sponsor Cleveland Brothers, in Dauphin County, for fellowship, food and a unified call to support building energy infrastructure in Pennsylvania.

“Natural gas has been a blessing from the hand of God,” said Doug McLinko, chairman of the Bradford County commissioners. “It has helped to save more family farms and small businesses than any government program ever could.”

McLinko’s message was echoed by other rally speakers, including state Rep. Jonathan Fritz (R-Susquehanna/Wayne counties), Pa. Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland County) and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne County).

“Good energy jobs aren’t just in the gas fields,” Bloom said. “They are right here in the middle of Pa. in power plants, manufacturing operations, excavation and so much more.”

Pipelines mean jobs

The cooler months are often cruel to Cleveland Brothers’ bottom line. But that’s not the case this year, said Dave Kunkelmann, the company’s director of order fulfillment. The reason? Atlantic Sunrise, which recently began construction.

“It’s really kept us going through the year end,” Kunkelmann said. “We expect it to be busy all the way through the winter.”

Cleveland Brothers, which sells and rents construction equipment, has 26 locations in Pennsylvania. It employs approximately 1,150 people, with hundreds of those positions dedicated to the oil and gas industries, company President and CEO Jay Cleveland said.

Atlantic Sunrise means those jobs will remain filled, and it will be an economic boost for the entire region. And these aren’t just any jobs, as Bloom pointed out. They are stable, high-paying jobs for hardworking Pennsylvanians.

“Energy jobs are the lifeblood of Pennsylvania’s economy,” Bloom said.

Natural gas has pumped billions into Pennsylvania’s economy and created tens of thousands of jobs. These jobs aren’t strictly in exploration, drilling and distribution. They are everywhere — from restaurants and hotels to transportation and the supply chain, Toby Mack, president and CEO of EEIA, pointed out.

“When you think of yourself as an equipment person … think of yourself as an energy person,” Mack said.

Pipelines mean energy independence

As a U.S. Marine, John Borys, branch operations manager for Cleveland Brothers’ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton facility, served during a time when the country depended on foreign oil.

“Those of us in uniform knew that part of our job was to prepare to fight to protect those energy sources,” Borys said. “Many sacrifices were made in the line of duty to complete that objective.”

Now, with natural gas, America has a shot at energy independence — and Pennsylvania can lead the way.

“We have more energy under our feet than oil in Saudi Arabia,” Barletta said, noting that Pennsylvania’s natural gas deposits can make the state a world energy leader. “Other states would love to have the opportunity that we have.”

However, having all that natural gas does nothing without the necessary infrastructure to get it to market.

“We have the resources, but we can’t get it where we need to,” Bloom said.

For Fritz’s district and all of northeast Pennsylvania, natural gas has been a blessing.

“It’s provided an optimism that has been absent for decades,” he said. “It means the world to me that the next generation has something to look forward to.”

But all the optimism is for naught if the U.S. remains dependent on foreign energy sources and Pennsylvania does not have the infrastructure to allow the transport of natural gas.

“[Pipelines] are the safest way to deliver energy to homes, businesses and manufacturers,” said George Stark, director of external affairs, Cabot Oil & Gas. “We need this American fuel to fuel the economy.”