Natural Gas Forecasted to Equal or Exceed Coal as Electricity Source for Second Straight Year

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in its recent short-term energy outlook report, predicts that in 2017, natural gas will either exceed or equal coal as a source of electricity generation for the second straight year. Last year was the first that natural gas-fired electricity generation exceeded coal-fired generation, with coal generating 30% of U.S. electricity and natural gas responsible for 34%. In 2017, through the first four months, coal has provided 30% of U.S. electricity while natural gas has provided 28%, and the EIA expects that by the end of the year, both coal and natural gas will have each generated about 31% of the electricity in the U.S.

The EIA also recently released statistics that showed Pennsylvania as ranking second in the nation in natural gas production for the fourth straight year. Natural gas is a big part of the PA economy, and locally, a new natural gas pipeline is scheduled to get underway later this year. It will have an estimated economic impact of $85.5 million for Columbia County alone, and $1.6 billion for all of the project’s regions. The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will expand the Transco gas pipeline system with a new pipe approximately 185 miles long connecting the existing pipeline just north of Columbia County to southeast Pennsylvania, which will allow for more efficient transportation of Marcellus Shale natural gas and should enable even more to be exported. 

Williams is also encouraging all workers that come into the area to work on this project to patronize local businesses. More information about the opportunities for local businesses related to this pipeline project will be available at the Chamber’s next Learn at Lunch, sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities, this Tuesday, Aug. 8, at noon at Wesley United Methodist Church. Mike Atchie from Williams will talk about the different types of opportunities for local businesses to cater to the visiting workers and give an overall update on the project at this event. The cost to attend this event is $10 for lunch and those interested can register here.

PA Senate Passes $600 Million Tax Increase Package

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

In a close 26-24 vote held July 27, the state Senate narrowly passed a revenue package that will significantly increase the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth.

House Bill 542, the Tax Code bill, contains $600 million in tax increases on Pennsylvania residents and job creators.  The Senate’s revenue proposal includes: a new tax on residential and commercial use of natural gas; an increase to residential and commercial electric bills; a higher tax on phone bills; as well as a severance tax on the natural gas industry.  In addition to these tax increases, the Senate’s plan calls for borrowing $1.3 billion against the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund; $200 million in special fund transfers and $200 million from a yet-to-be enacted gaming expansion bill in order to balance the 2017-18 budget.

Prior to the vote on final passage, the PA Chamber sent a memo to the entire Senate, raising concerns with the impact the new and increased taxes will have on Pennsylvania’s economy and urging Senators to oppose the bill.  In a statement released following the vote, PA Chamber President Gene Barr said: “We’re disappointed that the Senate has voted in favor of a $600 million tax increase that will hurt Pennsylvania’s ability to compete and will increase job creators’ operating costs for electricity, natural gas and communications services. At a time when the state’s unemployment rate has consistently been above the national average, proposals like H.B. 542 – which will make Pennsylvania’s business climate more burdensome – will only further weaken the state’s economic growth.”

While the proposal is supported by the Wolf administration, its fate in the House is uncertain. The PA Chamber is encouraging businesses to urge the House of Representatives to oppose this bill.  Contact information is available on the Columbia Montour Chamber’s website.

Get Caught Up on Unemployment Compensation Payments

Employers who owe money to the state’s Unemployment Compensation Fund may be eligible to participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s “Make It Right” UC Amnesty Program. Under the program guidelines, eligible employers who have unpaid contributions through the third quarter of 2016 and unpaid reimbursement due on or before Oct. 31, 2016 can satisfy these liabilities and only have to pay half of the interest and penalties owed. The program is effective now through Sept. 30. For more information, visit the UC website

For Fourth Straight Year, Pennsylvania is Second in Nation in Natural Gas Production

According to statistics released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation in natural gas production in 2016, marking the fourth straight year that Pennsylvania has held this spot. Overall, the state is third in energy production and 27th in energy consumption. Pennsylvania was also the third-largest coal producing state and the only state that produced anthracite. 

Locally, both Columbia and Montour Counties contribute to that energy production either directly or indirectly through energy transportation. A big upcoming project intended to increase the ability to transport natural gas is the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project by Williams, which the Columbia Montour Chamber continues to support. This new project will expand the Transco gas pipeline system with a new pipe approximately 185 miles long connecting the existing pipeline just north of Columbia County to southeast Pennsylvania. Last month, Chamber president Fred Gaffney spoke in support of the project at a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection hearing held at Bloomsburg High School.

This project will allow for more efficient transportation of Marcellus Shale natural gas and should enable even more to be exported. Additionally, the Atlantic Sunrise project, which is scheduled to begin later this year, is expected to generate an economic impact of $85.5 million for Columbia County alone, and a $1.6 billion economic impact in all of the project’s regions. 

Williams is also encouraging all workers that come into the area to work on this project to patronize local businesses. More information about the opportunities for local businesses related to this pipeline project will be available at the Chamber’s next Learn at Lunch, sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities, on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at noon at Wesley United Methodist Church. Mike Atchie from Williams will talk about the different types of opportunities for local businesses to cater to the visiting workers and give an overall update on the project at this event. The cost to attend this event is $10 for lunch and those interested can register here.

PA Department of Labor & Industry to Hold Free Safety Webinars in August

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Health & Safety Division of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry will conduct a series of free safety webinars in August. Titled PATHS (PA Training for Health and Safety), the series will covers a wide array of topics including but not limited to worker fatigue, cyberbullying, hazardous waste management, whistleblowing, ADA compliance, noise control and much more. Each webinar lasts approximately one hour depending on course material and viewer participation. 

For a complete list or to register, visit the PATHS Training Calendar