Pennsylvania’s economy has historically relied on the coal, oil, and gas industries. Our environmental and energy concerns are inextricably linked and must be addressed as such.
As someone who founded a non-profit based on the principles of reuse and recycling, I remain dedicated to ensuring that every Pennsylvanian can enjoy their constitutional right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of our natural resources. I also reject the idea that we must sacrifice the quality of our environment in the name of economic growth.
As a legislator, I will vigorously pursue both current and emerging, innovative means to produce the energy we rely on in safe, sustainable ways. It is clear from the science of climate change that we must move to end our carbon and methane emissions in a timescale that avoids calamity. The best path forward will be one that evolves from a diversified energy portfolio and enforces common-sense regulations that are critical to our citizens and our environment to achieve the goals.
Methane is a major factor in regional ozone levels and fuels climate change and must be better controlled. We must implement a severence tax, but not in addition to the existing impact fee. Instead, appropriate portions of revenue from this extraction tax should be distributed to impacted municipalities. However, to acknowledge economic realities and ensure fairness to both our operators and the Commonwealth, we must calculate the tax based on commodity pricing and the fluctuations of the marketplace; this will also ensure that the tax is not seen as punitive by the oil and gas industry, and finally provide much needed certainty to our businesses and revenue to our state that can fund vital programs and infrastructure projects in addition to sealing the many abandoned wells that emit methane and threaten our drinking water. Sealing these wells will also employ displaced oil and gas workers who have seen their jobs end because of the boom-bust cycle of the industry. It is only fair that we enact policies that ensure both Pennsylvanians, as well as the energy companies, benefit from this valuable natural resource.
It is increasingly apparent that we must upgrade and implement the same standards for the radiation associated with fracking as for other radioactive waste sources. Measures must protect the health of those who work in the petrochemical industry as well as those who live in communities adjacent to these operations. Frack-wastes and produced wastewaters from fracking wells must be treated as hazardous and radioactive wastes under the law. The DEP must be properly staffed and strictly enforce the proper handling and safe disposal of all hazardous and radioactive wastes to keep it from our rivers and drinking water supplies.
The 16,000-member Pennsylvania Medical Society is on record urging the state to establish an independent health registry and to start studying public health impacts “to give us a better understanding about whether fracking is safe and what the risk is.” To ensure continued vigilance, I propose following the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Medical Association about creating a registry of health impacts near frack wells and closely monitor the health of those exposed to existing wells.
Best Available Control Technology should be the standard for all new gas infrastructure to create the safest and most responsible conditions possible. We must ensure that corporate and industrial entities are regulated and compliant if they want to do business in the Commonwealth, and are held accountable when they break the rules.
I will also fight to see municipalities given the right to decide what is best for their communities and to choose what kinds of operations can take place within their borders. We need to prevent fracking in residential zones or close to occupied residents and allow local governments the freedom under the municipal planning code to decide if and where they want to host frack-wells.
The future must be forged with a thoughtful, multi-faceted balance of both traditional and alternative energy production as we transition to clean energy that provides excellent, family-supporting jobs. The path forward must enable the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs and meaningful career paths that spur economic growth while evolving toward a more sustainable future that protects our children’s future.