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Going with the flow: Energy policies that benefit consumers

| Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, 8:55 p.m.
Above, a proposed map of the partial flow reversal in the Laurel Pipeline Company, which would send petroleum products east from Pittsburgh and west from Philadelphia to Laurel's terminal in Eldorado, Pa.
Image courtesy of PUC
Above, a proposed map of the partial flow reversal in the Laurel Pipeline Company, which would send petroleum products east from Pittsburgh and west from Philadelphia to Laurel's terminal in Eldorado, Pa.

Sound economic and energy policies protect and help consumers while promoting local job creation. These are the kinds of policies that Pennsylvanians deserve and expect from their leaders in Harrisburg.

The ongoing American energy revolution is helping to make that expectation a reality.

Huge gains in American energy production are generating consumer benefits in the form of lower prices at the pump. Our new energy reality represents a brighter future as production soars from Pennsylvania west into our country's heartland, drastically reducing our reliance on foreign imports.

But there's more work to do to ensure that consumers receive every possible benefit from this generational revolution.

Realizing these shared goals demands a commonsense approach to policy outcomes focused on enhancing — not discouraging — competition. This is not the time for government's heavy hand to play favorites in the market.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has an opportunity to make the kind of decision that reflects sound economic and energy policy benefitting both consumers and the commonwealth's business climate.

Buckeye Partners, which for more than 60 years has operated and invested in Pennsylvania, has proposed a change to a portion of its Laurel Pipeline in response to the market forces shaping our new energy future. We have joined many of our colleagues in urging the PUC to approve this proposal because it represents a clear win for consumers, for enhanced competition and for stronger energy security.

The proposal seeks to bring an additional 40,000 barrels a day of North American-sourced fuels into Pennsylvania by reversing the traditional westward flow on the pipeline between Pittsburgh and Altoona.

Those new fuel supplies from the Midwest carry lower costs because of the increased domestic-energy production we have seen over the past decade and massive investments in refineries.

The section of pipeline that Buckeye seeks to reverse is increasingly underutilized by East Coast refiners that have access to many other markets. Midwest refiners, on the other hand, can use that section to deliver additional supplies of lower-cost American-made fuel to more Pennsylvanians.

Greater supply of lower-cost fuel will push prices down for consumers and increase competition. This project will allow the positive benefits of our energy revolution to reach more Pennsylvania communities.

Some special interests want to block the project. In a free market, companies must be built to change. That's not necessarily been the case with some East Coast refiners, including those that have received enormous financial support from Pennsylvania taxpayers. Similarly, some seem to oppose this proposal with an eye toward protecting their market share from competitors who could offer lower prices at the pump.

Impeding market-driven decisions that can benefit consumers while propping up others at the expense of fair competition is not sound policy. It's not what our constituents expect. They deserve to enjoy the lower prices, increased competition and secure energy future that greater access to American fuels can provide. They deserve to see this critical project approved.

State Rep. Jim Christiana serves the 15th District in Beaver and Washington counties. State Rep. Gary Day serves the 187th District in Lehigh and Berks counties.

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