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Corbett and Republicans: Failing Record on Environment

From allowing big campaign contributors in the coal, oil and gas industries to write their energy agenda into law and regulation, to denying climate change is real, to insensitivity to safety and health issues related to coal and gas extraction and pipelines, Governor Corbett and the Republican-controlled PA Senate and House just don’t get it with regards to the environment and what Pennsylvanians care about. They are wrong for Pennsylvania and wrong for Chester County!

Corbett and his DEP allied with coal, oil and gas interests, not PA residents wanting clean air and water

The first indication that Tom Corbett was going to follow corporate coal, oil and gas interests rather than everyone else’s desire to protect Pennsylvania’s environment and our health was when he hired C. Alan Walker, president and CEO of Bradford Coal (with its long record of environmental infractions) as his first cabinet officer to run the Department of Community and Economic Development.

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His recent selection of Chris Abruzzo, who has no environmental experience, to head the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is also questionable.  Abruzzo says he is unaware climate change can be harmful:  “I’ve not read any scientific studies that would lead me to conclude there are adverse impacts to human beings, animals, or plant life at this small level of climate change,” Abruzzo said. Incredible!

Corbett’s DEP has failed to protect the health of our residents. In testimony last September a DEP employee stated that the agency withholds information from water quality test results related to gas drilling, even failing to share full information about the results of tests on water supplies for people whose wells are suspected of gas drilling contamination.

Pennsylvania ranks 3rd in the country for most carbon pollution from its power plants, the nation’s largest single source of global warming emissions, yet energy plans largely focus on traditional fossil-burning energy sources.

Corbett and Republicans’ Act 13: Uncontrolled gas extraction, anywhere they want to drill, and forget transparency

Among the requirements of Act 13 passed by Republicans and signed by Governor Corbett in 2012 to rewrite the oil and gas laws for Marcellus Shale drilling (some aspects have been challenged in the courts and since ruled unconstitutional) are:

  • Act 13 takes zoning control from local municipalities and gives it to the gas companies; gas wells and pipelines must be allowed in all zoning districts, including residential
  • All municipalities must allow Marcellus Shale well drilling in all zoning districts, including residential, and municipalities may not limit hours of operation. Water and wastewater pits must also be allowed in all zoning districts, including residential.
  • The law also provides doctors in Pennsylvania access to the list of chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluid in emergency situations only, but forbids them from discussing this information with their patients. The information can only be used for emergency medical treatment, and the doctor must immediately verbally agree to keep the information confidential and later sign a document to that effect. The bill also reduces the legal responsibility of vendors, service providers, and operators regarding the identity and impact of contents of the hydraulic fracturing fluid they use.
  • The Department of Environmental Protection even withholds results of water testing related to wells contaminated by drilling.

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We all agree that natural gas can be a ‘cleaner’ source of energy and possibly a bridge to a future with largely renewables such as solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric, but the dangers of fracking to remove the gas from Marcellus Shale using hundreds of harsh chemicals pumped into wells at high pressure need to be managed more carefully. Doctors, health officials and many residents – both Democrats and Republicans — have requested that gas companies reveal fracking chemicals, but the Republicans’ Act 13 still keeps them secret.

We must add that Corbett also repealed a state policy regulating natural gas drilling on state park land in 2011 shortly after taking office.

Pipelines are a major issue in Chester County, but not for Governor Corbett and most Republican legislators

The Mariner East Pipeline Project Mariner East is a project to build and connect an approximately 50-mile pipeline with existing lines to move ethane and propane from operations in Western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook facility along the Delaware River, where the products will be processed and sold in the United States and abroad.

Among residents’ concerns is the use of eminent domain to place the pipes across forests, farms, and residential and business properties. These pipelines must cross streams and rivers which are high value water resources. Increased pressure in the pipelines as they head to seaports for gas shipment overseas requires pumping stations with large motors and other equipment that are continually loud, adding noise pollution to the mix, and several accidents at pipeline and connected pumping stations in Pennsylvania and other states have killed workers and destroyed neighborhoods.

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Here in Chester County, residents in West Goshen are concerned that a planned new pumping station in a residential neighborhood on Boot Road to boost pressure to handle natural gas liquids could have devastating impacts on their neighborhood.  They are worried about emissions from a 30-foot flaring unit that would be used to burn off excess fuel during maintenance and about the potential for a major failure.

“Climate Change is a subject of debate”, according to Tom Corbett and many Republicans

The most significant thing in the global environment is climate change. Despite the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed studies reflect the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change, Corbett is still on the fence. (The other three percent mostly reflect paid studies by the coal and oil industries.)

Global warming happens when gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are emitted from the use of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal & natural gas). Much of this gas is trapped in the atmosphere and reflects heat from the earth that would otherwise escape into space. The result: our oceans get warmer; the ice cover in the Arctic and the world’s glaciers melt; weather patterns change.

In the US, drought stresses our food supply. More severe storms cause greater flooding and damage. There are more and hotter wildfires. The oceans absorb 93% of the excess heat. As they become warmer, more water evaporates, causing greater rain and snowfall in storms. In Pennsylvania, drilling for natural gas and associated “fracking” have increased methane emissions. In a jointly published study by Purdue & Cornell Universities (see aircraft outfitted with methane “sniffing” devices flew over well pads and found considerable leakage of methane, even before extraction of natural gas. Extensive monitoring is required by the PA DEP and is now judged by many to be insufficient.

Don’t sign any contracts for clean or renewable energy, says Corbett

A newspaper says the Corbett administration is putting aside renewable energy and energy conservation efforts emphasized by previous governors as it focuses on Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the administration has stripped employees from offices that oversee utility efforts to save energy and help schools and local governments conserve energy.  The paper reports that the administration also is forbidding state executive agencies from signing clean-energy contracts.  Finally, even as solar and wind generation costs have decreased, Pennsylvania has no plans to increase its percentage of required renewable energy production.

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Corbett’s 2014 Energy Plan does not address the connection between the environment, climate change, and energy production

Governor Corbett’s Energy Plan for Pennsylvania issued earlier this year lacks reasonable steps for a healthy environment.

“Tom Corbett has released another empty campaign charade paid for by the taxpayers of Pennsylvania,” said former DEP Secretary John Hanger.  “Corbett’s so-called ‘Energy Plan’ is a plan to nowhere, filled with nothing.”

“Governor Corbett is clearly unconcerned with protecting the health of millions of Pennsylvanians breathing unhealthy air,” said Tom Schuster, Senior Pennsylvania Campaign Representative of the Sierra Club. “There’s an easy and affordable solution to cut dangerous pollution, but Governor Corbett has ignored it, choosing instead to give the largest polluters a free pass to poison the air we breathe.”

Coal plants could simply use the pollution-cutting technology they already have, yet Governor Corbett’s plan fails to take simple steps that will protect our kids’ lungs, prevent frightening and expensive hospital visits and save lives.

Pennsylvania’s Race to the Bottom

New York Times editorial, “>A New Alliance on Climate Change” (November 13, 2013), praises “California’s “ambitious plan” that “aims to reduce emissions 80% by 2050 by requiring cleaner cars, more energy-efficient buildings and renewable fuels. Nine northeastern states have joined in a regional trading program aimed at reducing power-plant emissions.”

Pennsylvania isn’t one of them.

 

On public land, a gas company takes private control

[This is a pretty hair-raising story: gas companies and private security companies restrict access to public roads and public lands and intimidate reporters. The way of the future if Tom Corbett stays in office....]

By Marie Cusick, StateImpact: A reporting project on npr member stations, 8/11/14

On any given day Bob Deering doesn’t know how much trouble he’ll have getting to and from his home. He lives on a mountain in Lycoming County and he’s routinely stopped and questioned by security guards. It’s been happening for the past six years– ever since the natural gas boom began.

“I’ve been coming up here with my grandparents since 1953,” he says. “But if I would have known in 2001 what I know now, I’d never have built a house up here.”

Deering expected to enjoy a quiet retirement. In the early 2000?s, he and his wife built a log home from a kit. Their property is surrounded by state forest and game land.

But in recent years their neighborhood has gotten noisy as gas companies drill wells, build pipelines, and move heavy equipment.

Nearly a third of Pennsylvania’s roughly 2 million acres of public forest land is already available for oil and gas development. Governor Corbett wants to lease even more land, but an environmental group is suing to try to stop him….

read more and see links and video at StateImpact

Giving Away the Golden Egg: Shale Tax Revenue Could Top $1 Billion by 2015-16

By Sharon Ward, Third and State, August 28, 2014

Here’s one estimate that Pennsylvania exceeded in 2014—gas production in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region came in ahead of projections for the first half of the year. Had Pennsylvania adopted a severance tax – a prospect still on the table as late as June – the Commonwealth would have $1 billion in revenue by 2015-16, and $780 million in new funds. That’s enough to make a serious dent in two key areas: restoring cuts to public schools and closing an expected $1.7 billion budget gap in 2015-16.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Pennsylvania produced 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the first half of 2014, a 14% increase from the prior six-month period. Because of rising natural gas prices, the value of gas produced grew from $6.4 billion to $9.6 billion in the same period.

The Trib reports that the number of new producing wells fell in Pennsylvania, but production grew….

Keep reading and see charts at Third and State

Support equal pay for women in PA

From Keystone Progress, 9/12/14

There is no doubt that it isn’t easy for families to make ends meet these days. Most families with two adults rely on income from both to afford the basics. An increasing number of households are single-parent, many of them single mothers.  

In Pennsylvania, women are still earning cents on the dollar for the same work as their male counterparts. Women earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Black women nationally earn 65 cents for every dollar a white man earns in annual pay. Hispanic women nationally earn 54 cents for every dollar a white man earns in annual pay.

Sign our petition for equal pay for equal work

It’s time to make equal pay a reality for women in Pennsylvania.

Take action to support a Pennsylvania that works for all, especially women and families.

In Pennsylvania, women working full time earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Black women nationally earn 65 cents for every dollar a white man earns in annual pay.

Hispanic women nationally earn 54 cents for every dollar a white man earns in annual pay.

CLICK TO SIGN PETITION. TEXT:

I support H.B. 1890, sponsored by Reps. Erin Molchany, D-Allegheny, and Brian Sims, D-Phila.; and S.B. 1212, sponsored by Sens. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, and Anthony Williams, D-Phila, Pay equity legislation. This legislation would clarify and update the legal standards for pay-equity lawsuits and prohibit wage secrecy policies.

It is time that PA recognized the equality of women in the workplace.

I urge you to co-sponsor and vote in favor of this important legislation.