Toomey talks pro-fracking legislation, impeachment on Pittsburgh stop

  • Lucy Perkins/WESA
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa. speaks to reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Photo

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa. speaks to reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey believes that presidents should not be allowed to unilaterally ban fracking — and in the wake of Democratic promises to do just that, recently introduced a Senate resolution emphasizing that point.

“It’s very hard to overstate how good natural gas has been for Pennsylvania and for America,” said the Republican Senator on a visit to Pittsburgh Friday. “It’s probably the best thing that’s happened certainly economically for Pennsylvania in maybe 100 years.”

Toomey’s resolution is non-binding:  It would merely express the Senate’s position on fracking. He said he hopes there will be a companion resolution in the House.

While Toomey doesn’t think the President currently has any authority to ban fracking, his case for introducing the resolution is centered on policies proposed by several Democratic presidential hopefuls. As an example, he highlighted a tweet from candidate and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris are all promising to use executive powers to shut down this whole industry,” Toomey said. “What Elizabeth Warren is saying unequivocally and [with] no ambiguity, is she wants to end this industry. She wants to bring an end to this amazing energy renaissance.”

President Trump has been a vocal supporter of the natural gas industry – and spoke at a Pittsburgh conference for industry executives in October. But when asked if the resolution was proposed ahead of a Democrat winning the White House, he demurred.

“This is not about the upcoming election, I don’t know who will win the upcoming election,” Toomey said. “I think it’s going to be very competitive and very close. But someday there will be a Democratic president  and I don’t know which one that might be. I just think we ought to go on record as soon as possible making it clear that no president has this authority.”

Toomey’s appearance came amid a controversy surrounding Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s recent criticisms of the petrochemical industry. Those remarks have divided other Democrats and led to criticism from business leaders and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

While Toomey spoke in Pittsburgh, the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry against President Trump continued on Capitol Hill with its second day of public testimony. Western Pennsylvania lawmakers are divided on the inquiry: U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-18) and U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-17) support the investigation, while U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-16) and U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-14) have expressed strong disapproval.

For his part, Toomey has said Trump has “made errors in judgment” but reiterated Friday that as yet he’s seen no evidence that Trump’s request for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rises to the level of impeachment.

“Having said that, it is also my responsibility as a senator, if the articles of impeachment come over to us, to pay attention to the case that’s made,” he said. “I intend to sit through a trial if the House pursues that, and at that point I’ll examine all the evidence they present.”

Toomey said he thinks it’s likely the House will impeach President Trump, but he hasn’t been paying attention to all the details coming out during the House investigation.

“I am not following every transcript that was leaked and every story that’s been told,” he said. “I’ll wait to see what if anything the House produces.”

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