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Pipeline reversal a win for Pa.

| Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Bill Hollis, senior vice president of Buckeye Partners, points to a map of the company's pipelines across the United States. (Trib photo)
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
Bill Hollis, senior vice president of Buckeye Partners, points to a map of the company's pipelines across the United States. (Trib photo)

Editor's note: This is the first of two commentaries on the proposed reversal of a portion of the Laurel Pipeline. An opposing view appears tomorrow on the Opinion page.

The United States — and Western Pennsylvania, in particular — is experiencing a revolution that's fundamentally changed how and where we get the energy that powers our economy. Thanks to strong market competition and continuous innovation, America is now the world's leading energy producer. Pennsylvanians have a unique opportunity to see even more direct and long-term benefits from this historic transformation, in the form of lower fuel prices, if markets are allowed to work in the interest of consumers here.

The abundant supplies of crude oil now being produced in North America, combined with significant investments by Midwest refiners, are providing consumers to our west with more low-cost, secure, domestically manufactured fuels. Buckeye Partners is working to ensure that Pennsylvanians can share in the benefits of this lower-cost fuel.

Buckeye — which for more than 60 years has invested in Pennsylvania and employs more than 400 people across the state — wants to ensure this new opportunity is delivered to families and businesses here. We have proposed to the Public Utility Commission to reverse a portion of the Laurel Pipeline, which would bring up to 40,000 barrels a day of more affordable fuel into Pennsylvania.

The compelling factors driving the reversal are clear. Our Midwest customers seek additional outlets for their growing production of increasingly lower-cost gasoline and diesel fuel relative to the East Coast. This trend has been building for nearly a decade, resulting in a dramatic drop in shipments on Laurel from the East Coast. Our project is good for America and good for Western Pennsylvanians. But some have expressed concerns about our market-driven proposal.

First, those opposed to this project falsely imply that because our pipeline flows from the east today, it somehow guarantees competition. Three pipelines supply Pittsburgh from the west, and we expect the large and efficient refineries in that region to provide more lower-cost fuel as they compete for increased business in Western Pennsylvania. Independent experts agree.

Further, it's intellectually dishonest to argue that maintaining an increasingly underused pipeline to bring more expensive fuel from the East Coast somehow helps Pennsylvanians. In fact, an expert witness for the opposition has told the PUC that our project “would put downward pressure on prices” for consumers as more fuel is delivered from the west.

Finally, our opponents make alarming predictions of shortages and price volatility because the Midwest occasionally has to import fuel from the U.S. Gulf Coast. Unsaid is that the Northeast imports three times the volume the Midwest does, year-round, much of it coming from overseas.

It's with an eye to the future that Buckeye is pursuing this critical project that will benefit Pennsylvania consumers and further strengthen our nation's energy security. We're committed to delivering on the opportunity that low-cost, secure fuel brings, and to doing our part to see that Pennsylvanians benefit from it.

Bill Hollis, born and raised in Pennsylvania, is senior vice president at Buckeye Partners, which has regional headquarters in the Lehigh Valley and operations across Western Pennsylvania (buckeye.com).

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