This combination of photos shows Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidates Democrat Katie McGinty, left, in Philadelphia, and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, in Villanova, Pa.
When it comes to Beltway politics, all eyes are on the Pennsylvania Senate race. The tight contest between incumbent Republican Pat Toomey and his Democratic challenger Katie McGinty could help decide which party controls the Senate. Millions of dollars are flowing in from outside groups, including those aligned with fossil fuel interests, and those supporting national environmental groups. The millions in dollars from big oil and big green flowing into this race reflects how the two candidates have starkly different views on energy, environment and climate change.
In the debate over the nation’s energy future, a lot rides on which party controls the U.S. Senate. So even if these are not the top issues for Pennsylvania voters, you can bet they are for the fossil fuel industry worried about new environmental regulations like the Clean Power Plan, as well as environmentalists racing to put a halt to a warming planet. On the airwaves and in mailboxes across the state, it’s as if two sides are waging a proxy war over energy and the environment in the Pennsylvania senate race.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton exchange views during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016.
Questions over the country’s energy future surfaced in the Presidential debate Sunday night. It was a surprising five minutes of policy discussion in a tense debate that focused on character attacks.
Undecided voter Ken Bone, who found unexpected popularity on social media and later said the debate felt like watching his parents fight, posed this question:
“What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly, and minimizing job loss for fossil [fuel] power plant workers?”
This really is the perfect question for anyone running for office right now – how do we combat climate change, maintain clean air, keep the lights burning, and not fire people who have no college education, and few prospects for good paying jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, coal miners make an average fifty-thousand dollars a year. Compare that to trying to get a comparable job in the wind or solar industry. Although the BLS doesn’t track earnings for those jobs, it does track manufacturing in general. And the average wage for someone making semi-conductors for solar installations is about thirty-two thousand dollars a year. Continue Reading →
Joe Moore of Wyalusing, spoke on behalf of his mother, who he says is being cheated out of gas royalty money, "I'd like to think there is such a thing as right and wrong," he says. "This is wrong. It's criminal."
About 150 royalty advocates rallied at the State Capitol Tuesday, accusing lawmakers of turning a deaf ear to their concerns, and allowing themselves to be manipulated by industry lobbyists.
“I’m here today for my mom,” says Joe Moore, of Bradford County. “She’s a 75-year-old widow, and what the gas companies are doing to her is very, very wrong. It’s criminal. Those pumps are taking gas from her land 24/7, and at the end of the month, she gets nothing.”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference Thursday, May 26, 2016, in Bismarck, N.D. The oil and gas industry, usually a reliable fundraising base for the Republican nominee, has only given about $244,000 in individual donations to Trump.
One thing we can say about this year’s presidential election, it’s not following the rules of the game. Take the oil and gas industry for example. Although Donald Trump is the keynote speaker at the annual Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh this week, industry executives and employees have not been opening their wallets to the Republican nominee.
But in a typical election they would. As of last week, Republican nominee Donald Trump raised a paltry $245,000 from individuals working in the oil and gas industry, according to figures provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. While union members and Hollywood entertainers are reliable donors to the Democratic candidate in Presidential races, industries like oil and gas line up behind the Republican.
So what’s going on here?
At an oil and gas conference in North Dakota last May, Trump came across like Santa Claus – ready to shower gifts all over coal and oil country, stripping away environmental regulations.
“We’re going to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas,” Trump told the industry crowd. “We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies….we’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement.”
When you hear that, you think, oil and gas industry employees should be lining up to give Trump money, right? Wrong.
FirstEnergy's Hatfield Ferry coal plant in Greene County closed in 2013 amid poor market conditions, helping Pennsylvania to meet its emissions targets under the federal Clean Power Plan.
Every year the King Coal parade winds through the center of Carmichaels. Hundreds of people line up to see the fire engines, classic cars, floats, and marching bands.
It’s fair to say the presidential race has people pretty fired up –and worried– in this small town in Greene County, about an hour’s drive south of Pittsburgh. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has promised to bring back coal, with few details on how he will accomplish it. Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton has said she’d put miners out of work, but is pushing a big plan to reinvest in coal communities.
Despite the black and yellow banners hanging around Carmichaels proclaiming, “King Coal”, times are changing for mining communities.
The JS INEOS Inspiration carries exported ethane to Norway. The ethane is produced in western Pennsylvania and moved across the state via the Mariner East 1 pipeline. Some landowners are now fighting plans by Sunoco Logistics to build a second line, the Mariner East 2, arguing the project doesn't benefit Pennsylvania.
As Ralph Blume walks through his farm field on a hot afternoon in July, he surveys the damage. By his estimate, he’s out about $4,000. That’s because a year ago, he says workers for Sunoco Logistics destroyed an acre of his wheat crop.
The company hasn’t reimbursed him and he doesn’t want them back.
“When they step foot on my property, things will get started,” Blume says darkly. “I’m gonna run them off. I don’t care what anybody says. They are not allowed on my property.”
Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania
"They're not nice people to deal with." Ralph Blume says of Sunoco Logistics. "They treat us like second-class citizens. We've lost our property rights."
Last summer Sunoco was digging up parts of his Cumberland County farm to work on an old pipeline that used to carry gasoline from east to west across the southern part of state.
The company had decided to re-purpose it, reverse the flow, and call it the Mariner East 1. It’s now moving natural gas liquids from the shale fields of western Pennsylvania to Sunoco’s Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. Natural gas liquids (NGLs) include products such as ethane, propane, and butane and are a byproduct of gas drilling.
Blume’s now upset again because Sunoco wants to build another pipeline, the Mariner East 2, next to the old one. The company’s threatened to use eminent domain to take his land. If built, the Mariner East 2 would span 350 miles of southern Pennsylvania and pass through 17 counties.
“Taking my property for their gain and I get nothing,” says Blume. “The way Sunoco has treated me over the years– they lied and threatened. [It's] just not a good company to deal with.”
Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields says the company is responsible for offering Blume fair market value for his land.
“He can’t say he’s getting nothing,” says Shields. “Mr. Blume, like any landowner, has the ability both in an out of court to establish what that compensation should be.”
But Blume says he doesn’t want the money. He is one of dozens of landowners along the pipeline’s route taking Sunoco to court, arguing the Mariner East 2 won’t benefit Pennsylvanians.
Opponents of the Algonquin Pipeline cheer speakers at a rally after the clean energy march in Philadelphia Sunday afternoon.
Thousands of campaigners for clean energy marched through the center of Philadelphia on the eve of the Democratic National Convention on Sunday, urging the party to adopt policies that would ban fracking and promote the use of renewable energy.
In an event that mixed national politics with local opposition to specific energy projects, some demonstrators called on the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, to step up her support for renewable energy, while others – many of them backers of Clinton’s former rival, Senator Bernie Sanders — vowed never to support Clinton even if that increased the chances of the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, becoming president.
"I don't know why he's caving on the environment," Rep. Greg Vitali (D- Delaware) says of Governor Tom Wolf. "But he clearly is caving."
As Pennsylvania’s July 1 budget deadline looms, Governor Tom Wolf is finding common ground with the Republican-led legislature on bills affecting climate change policy and regulations for the oil and gas industry.
But it’s leading to a growing rift between his administration and environmentalists.
“He’s caving on the environment”
“The environment has historically been the low man on the totem pole in budget negotiations,”says Rep. Greg Vitali (D- Delaware). ”It’s frequently been traded off by the Democrats to get other things.”
Last week Vitali called a press conference to blast Wolf for what he views as a failure to prioritize the environment. Vitali is particularly upset the governor is on board with a Republican-led effort to kill tougher regulations for the conventional oil and gas industry.
“I don’t know why he’s caving on the environment, but he clearly is caving,” Vitali says.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D) speaks at a press conference touting the benefits of the dredging the Delaware to increase shipping traffic to the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal. Philadelphia Congressman Bob Brady (D) stands to the left.
On a recent afternoon, local politicians and business leaders gathered at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia. Standing in front of a giant blue and white crane used to lift containers off cargo ships, U.S. Senator Bob Casey told reporters he’s confident Congress will approve the last chunk of federal funding needed to deepen the Delaware River’s shipping channel this year.
“It’s a great sense of satisfaction because it allows this region to be much more competitive and to chart its own course for the future,” said Casey.
That course for the future is the promise of lots of good-paying jobs. A controversial, $400 million project to deepen the Delaware River’s shipping channel will wrap up next year.
The project to dredge the river to a depth of 45 feet was held up for nearly three decades by state officials across the river in New Jersey and Delaware who didn’t think it was worth spending millions in taxpayer dollars, and by environmentalists worried about its impact on the Delaware River. Dredging proponents say it will be a boost to the local economy.
StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives. Learn More »