Wednesday, February 20, 2019

House Environmental Committee Meeting On Forge The Future Energy/Development Plan Turns Into Climate Change Debate

On February 20, the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee information meeting on the Forge The Future energy and economic development plan proposed by state business groups turned into a classic debate over climate change.
Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Minority Chair of the Committee, and Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Philadelphia) said there is no doubt climate change is real.
Rep. Vitali said he is concerned about the report because it doesn’t take into account the need to address climate change by moving away from all fossil fuels, including natural gas, which the report highlights.  
Kevin Sunday, from the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, pointed to the success the  free market shift to natural gas has had in significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania in particular, and lowering the cost of energy.
He noted not only have greenhouse emissions been reduced by 30 percent or more, traditional air pollution has also been reduced.  He called it “the greatest story not told.”
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) said you can’t get rid of all CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions because he “enjoys his vegetables and plants need CO2. I want to make sure there is plenty of CO2 out there.”  He said energy like natural gas is critical to keeping everyone warm without having to wear your hats and gloves inside, especially on a [snowy] day like today.
Rep. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson) said the free market does a much better job of reducing emissions than a top-down, government-driven “Soviet-style” program that seeks to do the same thing.  Later, he added we have had climate change if you look back through history to the ice age and other periods, saying volcanoes and other natural sources have created more problems than man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Rep. David Zimmerman (R-Lancaster) said he believed new energy technologies, like manure digesters, are a key to dealing with many issues and asked how difficult is it to get new technologies approved. Kevin Sunday said Pennsylvania has a complex regulatory environment and Pennsylvania has some things other states don’t, like residual waste regulations.  Each situation is different and businesses have to work with DEP on each case.
Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) asked what the reaction of the Administration is to the report.  Kevin Sunday said the Administration has some different priorities, but he believes Gov. Wolf understands the importance of the natural gas industry and the Chamber will work with him “where our interests align.”
In concluding comments, Rep. Vitali said there is no doubt natural gas is better than coal, but that’s not the problem we’re dealing with on climate change.  He said expanding the use of fossil fuels in the face of the impacts we’re seeing from climate change like increased flooding, forest fires in California and more doesn’t make sense.  
He added, there is a free market solution to the problem, it’s a carbon tax.
Rep. Metcalfe wrapped up the hearing by saying he would like to see the Forge The Future Plan implemented “as fast and furious as we are able to for the benefit of Pennsylvania.”  Click Here to watch a video of  Rep. Metcalfe’s concluding remarks.
Plan Background
Forge The Future is an initiative of Pennsylvania businesses across the state calling for a new era of economic growth in Pennsylvania.
The plan includes Ideas for Action, a report that highlights specific actions the Commonwealth can and should implement to capitalize on its world-class energy assets and grow its way to more revenue, population and job growth.
-- Cabinet-Level Energy Executive:Pennsylvania should create a cabinet-level leadership position (Energy Secretary, Executive, or “Czar”) with exclusive responsibility for driving energy-enabled economic development in the state. This would give appropriate status to the energy economy and its potential to create significant GDP, jobs, wages and population growth impact.
-- Pennsylvania Energy Investment Office:  Create a new Pennsylvania Energy Investment Office, led by a cabinet-level executive, to be the Commonwealth’s one-stop resource for helping streamline the process of doing energy business in PA – serving as an ombudsman to coordinate regulatory, permitting and other needs. The office should be staffed and funded appropriately, with the goal of leveraging economic growth, which, as this and other studies/reports have estimated, could be more than $60 billion.
-- Create Statewide Energy Investment Strategy: This new office would be charged with creating and leading a well-defined statewide energy business and investment strategy. This could include an energy-focused business attraction/investment resource kit for local and regional economic development agencies, and regular interaction to coordinate and collaborate on energy-related economic development.
-- Streamline Pipeline Permitting Process: Developing Natural gas transmission and distribution is vital to utilizing the abundant resource across the state, and delivering NGLs and LNG to export terminals, including a potential Penn America LNG facility in Chester County. Many regulatory hurdles exist, including oversight at both the state and federal level for natural gas infrastructure projects.
-- Expand Pipeline Investment Program: which currently provides grants to construct the last few miles of natural gas distribution lines to business parks and existing manufacturing and industrial enterprises, to include residential uses.
-- Natural Gas Micro-Grids: Create partnerships with organizations and institutions that operate large physical plants (government, universities, health care institutions) to build gas-fueled micro-grids for power generation
-- New Distributed Energy Technology: Develop partnerships between industries and STEM- focused colleges and universities to explore new technologies in distributed energy
-- Encourage CHP, Fuel Cells: Leverage utility ratemaking policy to facilitate adoption of natural gas as a heating and power source (such as CHP and fuel cells)
-- Convert Transit Fleets To Gas, Support Fueling Infrastructure: Seek federal and state assistance to convert all major transit fleets to gas powered buses; Support installation of natural gas fueling stations at all PA Turnpike service plazas; Develop port infrastructure for natural gas fueling on cargo ships in Philadelphia to take advantage of the eventual move from high-sulfur diesel.
--  District Energy Zones: where long-term Power Purchase Agreements would incent use of natural gas-fueled micro-grids for manufacturing facilities and support the work of the CHP working group within the Public Utility Commission to identify additional ways to help manufacturers adopt CHP solutions for their facilities.
Click Here for more information.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to:
(Photo: Rep. Metcalfe, Rep. Vitali.)
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