U.S. Representative Lou Barletta conveyed optimism for the future of Pennsylvania and its economy to members of the Columbia Montour Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau. The Commonwealth’s natural gas reserves and anthracite coal have considerable untapped potential according to the Congressman, while tax reform would put more money back in the pockets of the middle class. Barletta spoke with members at a breakfast event, sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities, held Friday, Oct. 20 at The Greenly Center in downtown Bloomsburg.
According to the Congressman, there are 1,000 natural gas wells in Pennsylvania ready to be drilled, but the pipeline infrastructure to get the gas to market is underdeveloped. He noted that there is more natural gas “under our feet” than oil in Saudi Arabia. Following Barletta’s remarks, Chamber President Fred Gaffney noted that construction of the Williams Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project is getting underway.
Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal also holds new opportunities, with uses in manufacturing processes and the possible extraction of valuable rare earth elements. Penn State has provided a $1 million grant to study extraction. If successful, these processes could lead to reclamation of former mining areas.
To support industry, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act would reauthorize and update legislation to encourage increased engagement between employers and education so that future workers are better prepared. The current legislation provides funding to the Columbia Montour Area Vocational-Technical School for career and technical education.
Barletta once again emphasized the need for a long-term transportation funding bill.
“It’s a responsibility of the Federal Government to make sure…especially our interstates, that we can move commerce efficiently and effectively,” said Barletta.
In addition to the President’s $1 trillion package, Barletta talked about the efforts of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to reduce the environmental review and permit process for projects from 14-15 years to seven.
That Transportation Committee also has oversight over FEMA. With the increasing frequency of major natural disaster declarations in the United States, the agency is spending more on recovery for each subsequent event. Rep. Barletta believes more needs to be invested in pre-disaster mitigation to protect homes and businesses before disasters strike. He has also co-sponsored the Disaster Declaration Improvement Act, which would allow FEMA to provide assistance for more isolated events, such as localized flooding or snowstorms.
As Congress begins consideration of tax reform, Barletta emphasized that the primary goal is for taxpayers, particularly the middle class, to keep more of their money to spend and grow the economy. Under the Republican plan, the number of personal income tax brackets would be reduced to three, and the standard deduction would double to $24,000. Filing a tax return could be completed on a post card (right). Corporate tax rates would also be reduced and many loopholes eliminated in an effort to encourage domestic investment.
“Let’s get the IRS out of your house…off your back…and let’s get the economy going again,” said Barletta.
Prior to Rep. Barletta’s remarks, Tracie Witter, regional affairs director at event sponsor PPL Electric Utilities made some brief remarks about PPL’s most recent work in the local communities that it serves. Chris Stamatedes, regional operations director at PPL and a Chamber board member, also spoke about his recent experience in going to Florida last month with a PPL team of more than 400 individuals to assist with the recovery efforts from Hurricane Irma. Stamatedes and his team went to Fort Myers, Fla. for about two weeks to support one of the largest storm recovery efforts in U.S. history.