In Pennsylvania, it’s usually not a question of whether a statewide candidate supports the oil and gas industry, but how much.
This is the case of the main candidates for governor of Pennsylvania, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Republican Senator Doug Mastriano of Franklin County, who will face each other in November.
Pennsylvania is one of the largest producers of fossil fuels in the United States, accounting for 9% of the country’s total natural gas production. It is also the third largest supplier of energy to other states and the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
However, polls show that voters in the state are increasingly concerned about climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the impacts of industry on the environment.
Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, Spotlight PA breaks down where top candidates stand on key energy and environmental issues:
Fossil fuels and renewable energies
Mastriano has shamelessly and loudly called for the deregulation of the state’s fossil fuel industries. In March, he introduced the PA Energy Independence Law, which would make it easier for oil, gas and coal companies to dig for resources across the state.
The bill would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to review natural gas and coal permits within 45 days, or permits would be automatically approved as long as they meet certain conditions. It would also lift the Wolf administration’s ban on leases in state parks and forests, set a cap on permit fees for fracking wells, and exempt Pennsylvania’s coal industry from federal regulations.
“We need to open up more of our land to fracking and drilling,” Mastriano wrote in an op-ed supporting the expansion of energy production in Pennsylvania. “Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Blessing is still underutilized with untapped natural gas deposits.”
Spotlight PA could not locate any public statements by Mastriano on renewable energy, and his campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Shapiro called for “responsible fracking” and energy production that causes minimal harm to the environment. He has pledged to adopt the recommendations of a grand jury report he commissioned as attorney general that suggested expanding “drill-free” zones, requiring disclosure of fracking chemicals before they are on the ground, to regulate small pipelines and to lead “comprehensive health responses”. the effects of living near fracking sites.
In a plan on his campaign website, Shapiro said he would invest in the research, development and design of carbon-free technologies such as nuclear, hydrogen and carbon capture, efforts he said , would support the creation of businesses and jobs.
He also said he would focus on growing clean energy. On his campaign website, Shapiro said he would increase the 2030 goal for renewable or clean electricity generation from the current 8% target to 30%, and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Last April, Pennsylvania joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a pledge by a dozen states to reduce emissions by requiring fossil fuel power plants to buy allowances to emit carbon dioxide. Benefits from the allowances then go back to the state to be reinvested in renewable energy, flood control measures or other initiatives.
The state’s participation in the program immediately drew the ire of Republican lawmakers and industry groups, who filed suit in Commonwealth Court to block the state from joining. Subsequently, Pennsylvania could not participate in the sale of quotas this month of September.
Mastriano strongly criticized Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to join RGGI and pledged to step down from the initiative as governor – a concept he introduced in his energy independence bill. He argues that RGGI will “do far more harm than good” because its regulation would drive companies seeking to invest in the energy sector to move into neighboring states.
The Department of Environmental Protection expects the program to create more than 30,000 jobs and reduce coal production. The coal industry employs more than 10,000 workers, according to the DEP. A study of other states that participate in the RGGI found an increase in economic activity and job growth. .
Mastriano also described the effects of RGGI on climate change as “negligible”. However, carbon pricing has been shown to reduce emissions, and most environmental, economics, and public policy academics agree that the program will have at least a modest impact on slowing climate change in the state.
Shapiro has not yet committed to remaining in RGGI. During the campaign trail, he said he wasn’t sure RGGI was the most effective way to reduce environmental impact while protecting jobs and affordable energy prices in the state. Shapiro said he should consult workers and experts before making decisions.
Climate change and conservation
Mastriano has called global warming an academic fabrication and makes no mention of climate change on his campaign website.
His campaign rarely mentioned the conservation of natural resources. When asked how he would protect Pennsylvania’s environment in a survey of candidates, he wrote, “I am an Eagle Scout and I respect the environment – we are stewards of the earth.”
Shapiro said he wants to fight climate change while creating new jobs for Pennsylvanians, arguing it’s a “false choice between protecting jobs or protecting our planet.”
The Natural Resource Defense Council Action Fund and the Conservation Voters of PA Victory Fund have both backed Shapiro, spending at least half a million dollars on ads criticizing Mastriano.
As attorney general, Shapiro charged Energy Transfer, a pipeline construction company, with environmental crimes, including causing damage to wetlands, waterways and drinking water during the construction of pipelines for liquefied natural gas. He also accused the company of negligence for its role in a 2018 explosion that caused a 2018 explosion.
90.5 WESA partners with Spotlight PA, a collaborative, reader-funded newsroom producing accountable journalism for all of Pennsylvania. More at spotlightpa.org.