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Guest column/We must invest in pipeline infrastructure

Natural gas is a dependable, affordable, clean-burning energy source. The U.S. has an abundance of natural gas, and its development has created a path to energy independence.

But as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, reliable infrastructure is critical. We must have a way to safely and efficiently deliver it.

The cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline’s 5,500-mile system, which delivers millions of gallons of gasoline every day, underscores our country’s dependence on oil and natural gas.

One point to make is that, while the attack certainly created an interruption, the company and industry response was immediate. The multifaceted delivery system overcame a tremendous challenge and began restoring supplies and customer confidence just days later – as it does after other unforeseen or unpredictable events, such as intense weather.

The other point to make — natural gas is a critical commodity. We need more — not fewer — pipelines to deliver this vital resource that keeps people warm and the economy churning.

Our industry is ready to invest in infrastructure. But many are committed to blocking our progress.

For example, the decision to vacate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project last year after dozens of costly delays brought on by the anti-fossil fuel movement. Or the hurdles facing the Mountain Valley Pipeline from these same opponents. Or President Biden’s executive orders halting pipeline construction.

It’s time to move forward. Otherwise, weather and cyberattacks will lead to more severe consequences than they might if our infrastructure was more robust.

When the ACP was progressing, it was supporting more than 17,000 jobs. Wages exceeded $400 million. It was injecting billions of dollars into the economy, and communities as well as supporting industries experienced the vast economic benefits. West Virginia reported revenue boosts, as tax dollars helped support education, infrastructure improvements, senior programs and other services.

Now, court battles and permitting obstacles have derailed the ACP and have come between hard-working West Virginians and their future. It is difficult to say if the project will eventually continue, but we do know the process shouldn’t be so arduous.

Projects — from within the energy, telecommunications and transportation sectors — face similar obstacles and the same potential outcome. We should all be troubled by that. We urge lawmakers to take urgent action and reform those processes that makes prosperity for our state so much more difficult to achieve.

We use oil and natural gas every single day. Heating our homes, keeping the lights on, powering our hospitals, providing fuels for various forms of transportation and supporting our essential frontline workers are just a few examples of how the oil and natural gas industry is supporting not only West Virginia, but our nation as well.

Additionally, natural gas byproducts include ethane, propane, butane, isobutane and hydrogen. These are critical to everyday life, too. They help make mobile devices, masks, tires, medical equipment and so much more.

These essential resources are quickly and efficiently transported through pipelines. These same pipelines are constructed with the utmost engineering, planning and stringent practices related to protecting the environment and sensitive eco systems.

Since the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Clean Water Act of 1972, environmental quality, protection and enhancement have been at the forefront of proposed pipeline activities for more than 50 years.

Extensive effort and coordination are dedicated toward planning pipeline projects with respect to wetlands, threatened and endangered species, water sources, existing infrastructure, residential and commercial developments and more.

These thorough efforts before and during pipeline construction ensure minimal disturbance to the environment and its inhabitants. Our promise and mission are to leave the land better than we found it.

We’re continually adapting to the newest technologies to make that happen.

Companies are embracing fiber optic technologies that can sense potential leaks along every inch of pipeline. Many companies employ satellite or drone technology to monitor pipelines and detect leaks and ground movements that could compromise projects – in advance of an occurrence. And we’re working to employ new carbon capture technologies before natural gas even enters the pipeline.

We’re dedicated to optimizing existing pipelines, adopting proven methods to rehabilitate cast iron and steel pipe distribution and essentially installing new pipes inside the old ones.

We ensure environmental consultants work with our pipeline companies in all stages of planning and development to map out the most environmentally safe routes, apply for and receive all required permits and assist in construction and post-construction operations.

The oil and natural gas industry play an integral part of West Virginia’s present and future and continues to prove so by producing clean and economical energy for our state and country.

In addition to powering and heating millions of American homes and businesses, natural gas is a cleaner alternative to traditional power sources such as coal.

In our current global conversation around climate change and carbon footprints, the preference is shifting to value more environmentally sound fuel alternatives.

This shift has led to current CO2 emissions dropping to the lowest levels we’ve seen since the early 1990s. This is, in large part, thanks to the enhanced use of natural gas.

When it comes to delivering this outstanding resource, let’s not be our own worst enemy.

(Moss is president and CEO of Apex Pipeline Services Inc.)

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