Meet the Candidates: Allyson Schwartz
This is the third in a series of interviews with the gubernatorial candidates on issues related to shale gas development in Pennsylvania.
Meet the candidate in a brief video, and read a more detailed transcript of our interview below. Both the video and transcript have been edited, separately, for length and clarity. The primary is on May 20th.
Name: Allyson Schwartz
Party affiliation: Democrat
Residence: Jenkintown, Montgomery County
Occupation: Congresswoman, 13th District, elected in 2004
Campaign website: www.allysonschwartz.com
Q: Do you support a severance tax or the current impact fee on natural gas extraction?
A: I support both. I think we should maintain the impact fee. It’s been important to local communities and we should maintain that and it’s good dollars to use, important dollars to use to enforce the environmental regulations at the state. I would actually make sure those environmental regulations are strong ones and that they are clearly enforced, but I would add a 5 percent extraction tax because right now, Tom Corbett’s giving away that natural gas to the energy companies.
Q: How would you spend the money?
A: I would use those dollars to pay for education and restore some of the cuts that Tom Corbett has made in education and I would use it for universal pre-K for 4-year-olds, make sure kids start school ready to learn. [It’s] one of the smartest things we can do. Second, I would use some of the money for infrastructure projects, big transportation projects. I would use some of those dollars to capitalize an infrastructure bank [for] big, transformative transportation projects that help grow the economy across the state. And third, I would use some of the dollars for clean energy. The shale is still a fossil fuel and we ought to be building towards a future, to make sure we invest in wind and solar and hydro and energy efficiency and be a leader in all four.
Q: How is the state doing with environmental oversight of the gas industry?
A: Well, there’s not a lot of trust of this governor in terms of both the standards and the enforcement of those standards. I think that there are some real gaps in the standards. One is in the transparency of the water that is used, both that goes in and comes out. [Another is] the gag rule on doctors not even being able to know what chemicals are used that might be harmful.
I want to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to protect the environment, our watershed, our local water and clean air in terms of methane [emissions] into the air and see if we can’t reuse that, which energy companies want to do as well.
Q: Do you support any changes to any of the current moratoriums? Note: There is currently a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in state parks and forests and on hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin.
A: I would maintain the moratorium on the drilling in the Delaware River Basin and I would extend the moratorium, I would enforce the moratorium on state parks and forests as well.
Q: How would you ensure Pennsylvanians benefit from oil and gas jobs?
A: I visited a drilling site and almost everyone I met was not from Pennsylvania. That’s not acceptable. We need to make sure that we’re training our own people to take these jobs in the Marcellus Shale. Not only jobs directly, but jobs that could come from the by-products and the pipelines and be able to make sure that we grow manufacturing and advance manufacturing and that we actually work on job skills so that they can take those jobs as well and that we push the energy companies.
Q: Could the state be doing more to protect the interests of royalty owners?
A: There have been questions raised, particularly for property owners and whether they’ve been getting the right deal and I think some work has been done on that, but [we need to make] sure that they know what their options are. Some have chosen to work together, which has been a good thing for them to think about how they might be able to be treated fairly. Also, we know that some of the agreements that were good for five years are now going to be either extended or not [is another] opportunity for those property owners to look at it. [I] certainly would be very open as governor to make sure that they have access to the technical advice, legal advice and know what their options are so that they get treated fairly.
Q: What are your views on man-made climate change?
A: Climate change is real. Anyone who denies it is an outlier and what that means is that, particularly for Pennsylvania, we have a real responsibility I think both because we have a legacy of producing energy, including coal. For the country and the nation, it’s been an important part of our energy source. The Marcellus Shale [is also] an important part of our domestic energy source. I want to make sure we use it domestically and not just export it.
But it means we also have a responsibility to extract these fossil fuels in the most responsible, most environmentally safe way possible and that we go even further and say we’re going to use the best technology to make sure that we are safe and that we’re using these fossil fuels in the best way possible to both make them available, but to protect our people, our clean water, clean air. Again, I would say we have a responsibility to grow clean energy sources – we’ve been a leader in wind, if you go across Pennsylvania you’ll see wind in many places – and to move forward in setting higher standards.
Q: Describe your long-term vision for Pennsylvania’s energy economy.
A: Pennsylvania has been a leader in producing energy, not only for our state, [but] for the nation, so we have a legacy and a history of being energy leaders and we should be. That includes doing so in a way that is environmentally safe, doing so [in a way] that uses the most modern technology, but also we should be the leaders in clean energy and we have great resources for that. [I] mentioned wind and solar. We also have the opportunity because there are so many rivers to be able to use hydro, both large and small projects, and we should use the opportunity for energy efficiency. But we should be leaders and we can be leaders in Pennsylvania and as the next governor, I will seize this moment and it’s an important moment for Pennsylvania because of the Marcellus Shale for us to get this right, to be leaders on clean energy, leaders on natural gas energy done in the right way and continue to make sure that it grows our economy and it helps make sure that the United States of America can grow its economy as well by safe, domestically produced energy.