In a recent webinar, Energy Citizens hosted a special PA Women & Energy Forum that highlighted five women from across the Commonwealth who have been and continue to be integral in advancing the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania. Hosted by Bernadette Comfort of Stop New Energy Taxes Coalition, the panel consisted of Senator Camera Bartolotta, Stephanie Catarino Wissman from API, and Gina Suydam of the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, and Denise Brinley of TRC. Each of these women holds a key role in the regulatory, educational, community, and private sectors affected by the natural gas industry.
Pennsylvania is a powerhouse in the energy industry and can be a leader for generations into the future. A few stats that the women shared are astounding, when compared to all of the states, Pennsylvania is:
- 2nd in total energy production
- 2nd in natural gas production
- 2nd in installed nuclear capacity
- 3rd in coal production
- 3rd in electricity production
- Largest net exporter of electricity of any state
As noted in her introduction, Comfort stated, “PA is not only a leader among states but a leader among nations when it comes to energy.”
With a long history of being a leading energy producer, Pennsylvania continues to make headway in the industry, which provides economic, environmental, and community benefits across the region. Wissman touched on the economic benefits that the energy industry continues to provide to Pennsylvania:
- More than 480,000 workers
- More than $48.4 billion in wages
- More than $78.3 billion to the state’s economy
Those 480,000+ workers break down into several categories of work: direct employment in natural gas and oil, exploration and production, services, wholesale and retail, construction, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing, among others.
Providing more than just wages, the energy industry has contributed to local families and community organizations in the form of royalties, impact fees, and affordable energy to reduce overall household costs. Suydam shared both personal and community stories of farmers, including her own father, that are able to safely and securely retire, improve their farms and homes, and continue a tradition of farming that was previously not possible, prior to royalty payments from natural gas wells across the region.
Bartolotta also spoke passionately about her experience in raising a family in the southwest Pennsylvania region, and how she has seen the industry positively impact the region. She went on to say that Pennsylvania is a prime location for the growth of the industry – and that the greatest threat to the progress is not a lack of capable workers, resource shortage, or even unwillingness to adhere to regulations, but rather the threat comes from wary lawmakers and environmental extremists.
Wissman also addressed the environmental side of the industry, but rather than touch on the falsehoods of extremists, she stated, “The [energy] industry champions environmental progress.” She went on to reference the lowest levels of carbon dioxide emissions in a generation due to the technological advancements and increased regulatory standards applied across the industry. Brinley also discussed the evolution of the industry and how natural gas technologies are leading to advancements in the industry as a whole, as experts explore the vast possibilities of liquified natural gas (LNG) and hydrogen.
Natural gas provides an affordable, abundant, and reliable form of energy at a time when access to energy can mean life or death for millions around the globe. Pennsylvanians are uniquely positioned to take full advantage of this energy source, and with the right regulatory environment and support, our state could be an asset to the nation and the entire world.
While the natural gas industry has been a male-dominated industry for decades, women across the country, much like these five women, are making headway as leaders of our generations. Each of the women shared that they’ve had their fair share of challenges, and are determined to help the next generation of female leaders rise to the top.
Brinley encouraged women to choose careers in science, technology, engineering, and math so that their voices and experiences could help contribute to the future of the industry. Suydam spoke about the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas in Tunkhannock and how pivotal private investments from the natural gas industry have been in its development and growth (including a significant contribution from Coterra to kickstart the program). She happily shared that the 2022 Spring Semester was experiencing a first – there were more women than men enrolled in the program!
Overall, the message of the forum was clear – as a clean, abundant, affordable, and scalable energy source, natural gas is not only the energy for today, but also for tomorrow. And another message that rang loud and clear? That women’s voices are vital for the continued evolution of the future energy industry and we can look forward to the next generation of leaders!