Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Majority Chair Of Senate Committee Calls Opponents Of Natural Gas Infrastructure ‘Radical Environmentalists,’ Arguments By Supporters Of RGGI ‘Hysteria’

Sen. John Yudichak (I-Luzerne), who Senate Republicans appointed as Majority Chair of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, called opponents of natural gas infrastructure projects “radical environmentalists” and arguments by supporters of the RGGI carbon pollution reduction regulations covering power plants “hysteria.”

His comments were made during a March 29 joint hearing of his Committee and the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  Read more here.

Sen. Yudichak’s remarks came a day after the Republican Chair of the House Environmental Committee Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) said opponents of natural gas infrastructure projects “just need to be ignored and politically ran over.”  Read more here.

Sen. Yudichak

During his opening remarks at the hearing, Sen. Yudichak said, “On one hand, President Biden tries to lead the world against naked Russian aggression by pledging 15 billion cubic tons of LNG to Europe, and on the other hand radical environmentalists in Pennsylvania shut down an $800 million LNG project in Bradford County and the $1.2 billion PennEast Pipeline in Luzerne and Carbon Counties, two natural gas projects that would have boosted the Pennsylvania economy with the creation of over 12,000 new jobs and significantly furthered U.S. efforts to wean Europe off their dependency on Russian oil and gas.”

[Note: The Bradford County LNG plant got a permit from DEP in July 2019 and they did nothing with it.  DEP had to twice extend the permit at the request of the company because they failed to start the project. On March 18 the company said they would not do anything with the permit through at least July 2022 and entered into a voluntary agreement to apply for a new permit if or when they actually start the project.  Read more here.

[The New Jersey part of PennEast Pipeline was canceled in September, 2021. Read more here.  In December 2021, the company requested DEP to withdraw/revoke their permits for PA portion.  Read more here.]

Sen. Muth

When Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester), a member of the Senate Environmental Committee, was asked at the hearing whether she supported an expansion of natural gas infrastructure, in particular pipelines, she said, “Do I support an expansion of oil and gas pipeline? 

“Under the current regulations or the lack of regulations and the lack of protections for the publicly-held assets, specifically of this Commonwealth under our Constitution, no, I don't, because this state has failed to protect its residents. 

“It's failed to protect its workers from radioactive exposure that in the nuclear industry would never stand and not a person has mentioned how this expansion that's so desired by the participants today and some of my colleagues doesn't protect working people. 

“It doesn't. It doesn't protect drinking water. It hasn't. It has failed.

“People don't want to live in a state that is contaminated and that you can't turn on the faucet for water or have to go to work to sacrifice your health just to make a paycheck where the company you work for is jacking up their prices to increase their profits but not protect or pay you a single dime more. 

“Until this Commonwealth takes care of the impacted people that have been left behind by this industry [oil and natural gas], that don't have drinking water, who have cancer, who are sick, who have PFAS [‘forever chemical’ contamination], who have radium in their creeks and their water wells, and everywhere. 

“Until you agree to close the hazardous waste loopholes in Pennsylvania, under state law, [until] the two committees agreed to that, this would be a different conversation. 

“There is no compromise, because the people of Pennsylvania, the working people have been exploited for this industry.” 

[Note: Pennsylvania’s experience with the construction of new natural gas and natural gas liquids pipelines demonstrates state environmental and pipline safety laws are not strong enough to prevent environmental damage and protect public safety.  Read more here.

[In 2018, a brand new Revolution natural gas pipeline exploded as a result of faulty construction practices in Beaver County resulted in a $30 million penalty and criminal charges by the state Attorney General. Read more here.

[The Mariner East Pipelines constructed across Pennsylvania were the subject of hundreds of notices of violations for fluid spills, faulty construction practices and contaminating private water wells, a national recreation area and a state park lake, record penalties of over $24 million and criminal charges by the state Attorney General.  Read more here.

[New pipeline construction in Pennsylvania has been penalized over $55 million over the last few years making it the most penalized industry in recent memory.   Read more here.

[Both DEP and the PUC have asked for stronger laws to deal with these issues for several years beginning in 2018, to no avail. Read more here

[One Republican Senator, who was so frustrated by the repeated violations by the Mariner East Pipelines, said at a 2018 Senate hearing, “We should be able to deal with that company and put them out of business,” although no one ever has.  Read more here.]

Sen. Yudichak

In response to Sen. Muth’s comments, Sen. Yudichak said, “Just before we close out the, this panel, I am struck and reminded by a quotation from a French author named Romain Gary -- "The trouble with hysteria is that it's contagious."  

[Note: The BBC called Romain Gary “hoaxer extraordinaire.”]

Sen. Yudichak continued, “We have just heard an assertion by one of our colleagues, that the Wolf Administration, over the last eight years has failed to protect the residents, the taxpayers, the businesses of Pennsylvania on the subject of environmental quality.   

[Note: As outlined above, it has been the General Assembly that has failed to act on laws to strengthen environmental protection and safety despite repeated bipartisan requests.]

“Yet, we are supposed to accept, without debate, without compromise the validity of joining RGGI by the same administration. 

[Note: The Senate and House have had more hearings and information meetings on RGGI than another other single issue since 2019.]

Sen. Yudichak concluded-- “That's hysteria. That's not a civil debate. One of our other colleagues suggested that we have to join RGGI because of the increase in natural disasters. 

“Let's separate fact from hysteria. The International Disaster Database, operated by the Center for Research of Epidemiology of Disasters, in Belgium reports, "The number of natural disasters has declined by 10% over the last 20 years." Fact, verse hysteria.”  

“Thank you.”

[Note: The World Meteorological Organization reported between 1970 and 2019, the number of weather, climate or water-related disasters have increased by a factor of five during that time causing more damage, but fewer deaths as a result of warning systems.  Read more here.] 

At another point in the hearing, Sen. Yudichak reacted to comments from Carl Marrara, PA Manufacturers' Association, by saying-- “Mr. Marrara, in your testimony you make a statement, "The environmental movement has changed from reform to obstruction." 

“Those environmental obstructionists have shut down projects, as I mentioned in my opening statement, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, an LNG plant and a pipeline. [Note: The facts are different in Pennsylvania as noted above.]

“Both of those projects literally could be saving lives in Europe. Instead, environmental obstructionists have shut down those projects. 

[Note: Actually, no. There was no construction activity on the LNG plant for years, even though they had a permit.  The PennEast pipeline was going to New Jersey for domestic use.]

“Those same environmental obstructionists are the advocates for RGGI. And the goal is not to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

“As noted by the IFO [Independent Fiscal Office], independent sources have verified that Pennsylvania, over the last decade, has done very well reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

[Note: The Independent Fiscal Office said CO2 emissions dropped 41.7 percent in Pennsylvania and 46.9 percent in the 10-state RGGI region from 2008 to 2020.  Read more here.]

“So the environmental obstructionists that you mention in your testimony are really about ending Pennsylvania's energy industry, shutting down our fossil fuel plants here in Pennsylvania. That is the goal.

[Note: Market-driven competition with natural gas has shut down 20 coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania, with only three remaining [Read more here.] and one nuclear power plant-- Three Mile Island Unit 1.]

“I want to note there's an interesting book by historian Keith Woodhouse [that] traces the radical environmental movement in the United States. It focuses on a group called Earth First, whose mission statement is, "No compromise in defense of mother earth." 

“No compromise. Doesn't matter if human lives can be saved, it doesn't matter if economies can be built. No compromise.

“That is the same sense that I am getting from the [Wolf] Administration as they use language in DEP's testimony, that RGGI is a moral obligation. 

“To me, a statement like that is a radical statement because it is shutting down debate. It is shutting down compromise. It is shutting down science. It is shutting down consensus.  

“We are a representative democracy, not an authoritarian state.”

[Note: Earth First was founded in the 1980s as a direct action group focused on forest-related issues and was and is on the very fringe of the environmental movement.  The Woodhouse book discusses how positions taken by Earth First set them at odds with the environmental and social justice movements.  Read more here.

[To try and paint groups supporting RGGI with the Earth First brush is laughable.  Groups supporting RGGI include small and large businesses, religious, land conservation, scientific, wildlife and many others.  Read more here for a sampling.

[With respect to the term “moral obligation,” Rev. Sandy Strauss of the PA Council of Churches, Rev.Mitchell C. Hescox of the Evangelical  Environmental Network, Rev. Dr. Wayne M. Weathers, paster of the Vision of Hope Batist Church in Jenkintown, St. Paul’s UM Church in Allison Park and the Jewish Earth Alliance and other religious groups have all supported the RGGI regulation and frequently describe it in moral terms.]

Sen. Cappelletti

In her concluding remarks at the end of the hearing, Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-Delaware), Minority Chair of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, said-- “You know, I came here to advocate for issues that are really important to my community, my district, and actually a lot of Pennsylvanians. 

“And I started off by asking for a little bit of respect by not using the term environmental radicalist or environmental obstructionist, but those terms were continued to be used.

“And then Senator Yudichak actually used the word “hysteria” to describe both myself and Senator Muth. 

“So on top of being at a hearing that is stacked against the interests of my community, I'm facing a level of sexism and misogyny while doing it. 

“Because there is not one person that's participated in this hearing that can tell me they didn't know that using the word hysterical or hysteria or derivative thereof is misogynistic, and the history that goes behind that, and it was only used to describe two of the three female senators participating in this hearing. 

“So it's frustrating that I'm working really hard for my constituents, and yes, we can disagree about things, vociferously even, but we don't have to take low blows and name calling, and we don't have to take low blows and using words like hysteria or hysterical to describe women. 

“Because if I stoop to that level, you would be telling me I'm too emotional, and you would be putting me in my place somehow some way turning my mic off or whatever it might be. 

“So I wanna thank everybody who participated today in a civil manner, which is not everybody, as I think some of us might find when we see social media later. 

“But for those who did, for those who are willing to have a dialogue and talk back and forth, and to understand that we do need to fight this out back and forth if we're ever gonna come to a compromise. 

“But we won't come to a compromise if we continue with the name-calling and the misogynistic words and, and behaviors here in this Chamber, any Chamber anywhere across this country. 

“Thank you.” 

Visit DEP’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative webpage for more information on the final regulations.

Click Here for a video of the hearing and for written comments.

Sen. John Yudichak (I-Luzerne) serves as Majority Chair of the Community and Economic Development Committee and can be contacted at 717-787-7105 or send email to:   Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted at 717-787-5544 or send email to:

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3280 or sending email to:   Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-5709 or sending email to:

(Photo: The aftermath of the explosion of the brand new Revolution Natural Gas Pipeline in Beaver County  in 2018.


-- Post-Gazette - Laura Legere: Republican Senators File For Injunction To Block Gov. Wolf’s Carbon Pollution Cutting Plan For Power Plants - RGGI

Related Articles This Week: 

-- Republican Chair Of House Environmental Committee Believes Opponents Of Natural Gas Infrastructure Projects ‘Just Need To Be Ignored And Politically Ran Over’ 

-- Republicans On House Committee Move Bills To Unleash Natural Gas Industry In Pennsylvania, Kill RGGI 

-- Senate Committees Hear Familiar Pro/Con Comments On Economic, Environmental Impacts Of EQB’s Final Carbon Pollution Reduction Program Covering Power Plants - RGGI  

-- Sen. Casey: PA To Receive $186 Million To Lower Energy Costs For Families From Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Related Articles:

-- Senate Budget Hearings: PA’s Experience With New Pipeline Construction Shows State Laws Not Strong Enough To Prevent Environmental Damage, Protect Public Safety 

-- 6th Oil/Natural Gas Shock: U.S. - European Commission Agreement Calls For Reducing Demand For All Natural Gas And Accelerating Deployment Of Clean Energy Measures  

-- Senate Resolution Offers Hope Lawmakers May Take The Economic And Environmental Benefits Of Developing A Rare Earth Minerals Industry Seriously In PA

-- Senators Yaw, Yudichak Request Independent Fiscal Office To Audit Modeling Done By DEP To Justify Final RGGI Regulations Reducing Carbon Pollution From Power Plants

--  Guest Essay: Pennsylvania And Virginia Face Fight Of Their Lives - [What The Coal, Natural Gas Industries Want In PA]  - By Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming)

-- AP: DEP Files Lawsuit Against Reference Bureau To Publish Final RGGI Carbon Pollution Reduction Regulations; PA Could Lose Air Pollution Reductions, $283 Million

-- Senate Republicans File To Intervene To Oppose The DEP Lawsuit To Publish Final RGGI Carbon Pollution Reduction Regulations

-- Gov. Wolf Vetoes Resolution That Would Kill Carbon Pollution Reduction Program For Power Plants; General Assembly Failed To Act Within Statutory Deadlines

-- How Did We Get Here: Background On The Final EQB Regulation Reducing Carbon Pollution From Power Plants [RGGI]

[Posted: March 30, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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