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It’s rare in today’s politics that there are issues that can bridge the divide between Republicans, and Democrats, labor unions and business groups, rural farms and urban industry.

But support of energy infrastructure projects has brought all of these different voices together. This diverse partnership has come together to support the responsible expansion of critical energy infrastructure across Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

As the Coalition for the Expansion of Pipeline Infrastructure, we will work to share information on the importance of building the necessary natural gas pipeline infrastructure to bring adequate capacity to our region and lower our energy costs.

Over the last decade, natural gas production in the United States has redefined the term “boom times,” and union members have been among the beneficiaries, as skilled hands have been in high demand to construct the infrastructure needed to extract and transport shale gas.

The center of the natural gas universe has been the Marcellus Shale, which lies beneath Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. Production from the Marcellus has been soaring, growing from less than 2 billion cubic feet per day in 2007 to about 19 billion cubic feet per day currently, and production could easily rise to as much as 20 billion cubic feet per day by 2020.

Pipelines are the safest means of transporting natural gas and they don't interfere with our existing infrastructure. Our region and county already have large natural gas pipelines which safely cross sensitive rivers, streams, pastures, and mountains. Each year, pipelines safely carry more than 14 billion barrels of crude oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, and most of us don’t even give them a passing thought.

These pipelines provide jobs to local skilled craftsmen, adding to their other economic benefits. Job creation associated with shale gas development will total 930,000 manufacturing jobs nationwide by 2030 and 1.41 million by 2040. Our region needs to be a part of that job-creating machine.

Upgrading and expanding our pipeline networks in Michigan and Ohio can help create thousands of new, high-paying jobs, generate significant economic activity and expand the local tax base. With every $1 billion invested, hundreds of thousands of workers are employed to explore, produce, transport and distribute the natural gas. Millions of dollars in new equipment sales can be attributed to the recent boom in natural gas production and transportation.

The economic benefits that accompany natural gas pipeline projects aren’t just limited to hiring workers. Both Michigan and Ohio will collect hundreds of millions in new tax revenues yearly for states and counties along the route, funding our schools, public works projects, and other local needs.

Danny Hendrix is the business manager of Pipeliners Local 798.

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