Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Guest Essay: PA Politicians Capitalizing On Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine To Benefit Natural Gas Industry

By Lauren M. Williams, Esq.,
Greenworks Law & Consulting LLC


The following article first appeared on LinkedIn November 19, 2022--


On November 3, 2022, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf quietly signed into law resurrecting the prospect of liquified natural gas ("LNG") export facilities at the Port of Philadelphia. 

Act 133 of 2022 seeks to capitalize on the suffering wrought by Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine by creating a "Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force", aimed at determining what "obstacles" exist to turning the Port of Philadelphia into an LNG export facility

The law deliberately excludes the public from the Task Force's membership.

Previous efforts circa 2015 to create an "energy hub" at the Port of Philadelphia ("PhillyPort") were put on hold after intense advocacy and pushback by local and regional organizations, including Green Justice Philly.

Now, as Governor Wolf is leaving office, he and the General Assembly have brought the proposal back, claiming that LNG exports from Philadelphia are necessary to reduce the reliance of Europe and other countries on Russian energy, blaming such reliance for Europe's reticence to impose sanctions.

There are multiple problems with the PhillyPort LNG export proposal.

The first and most glaring issue is that the Governor and some legislators are heading out the door for good, yet they signed Act 133 of 2022 into law because they will not face or bear the consequences of their actions, in contrast to their constituents across Pennsylvania, particularly in communities already burdened by industrial impacts.

Second, and more crucially, this export proposal repeats the same refrain that Pennsylvanians have been fed for years -- that our communities must "sacrifice" for some elusive goal of "energy independence" that has never come to fruition.

First, it was energy independence from the SW Asia and North Africa region ("SWANA", also known as the Middle East). Now, it's Russia.

After more than a decade of fracked gas extraction and production in Pennsylvania, the pattern has been clear: in order to keep investor money flowing into fracked gas operations, fracked gas companies sought to keep drilling. 

This resulted in a glut of natural gas and, in turn, historically drove down natural gas prices domestically, making fracked gas operations even less profitable. 

The industry's answer to that situation has been more industrial buildout: plastics and petrochemical production, new and expanded pipelines, LNG exports, and now hydrogen, among other end products. 

Indeed, on the same day that Governor Wolf resurrected the PhillyPort proposal, he signed into law Act 108 of 2022, giving massive and irresponsible 20-year tax breaks and other benefits for hydrogen production, saddling us and future generations with the fiscal and environmental burdens of a last-minute political decision.

The goal of these proposals remains clear: none of this is about energy independence, whether for the USA or Europe. It is about corporate profits, again at the expense of Pennsylvania communities. 

Indeed, there is already a proposed LNG transport/export facility in Gibbstown, New Jersey, across the river from Philadelphia, which the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has been fighting for several years. 

Instead of looking to move Philadelphia and Pennsylvania into a healthier future, our politicians remain focused on chaining Pennsylvania to natural gas in a climatically-unstable world where we do not have the luxury of remaining reliant on natural gas as a fuel.

Beyond this, the reality of trying to kickstart LNG exports at PhillyPort now, in the middle of Russia's full-scale invasion, is that by the time any facilities come online, if they do at all, they will be too late in time to affect the current global energy blackmail game that Russia is playing.

Act 133 also ignores the reality of Russia's full-scale invasion in Ukraine. 

Prior to Russia's sustained and ongoing destruction of Ukraine's energy infrastructure beginning in autumn 2022, Ukraine was exporting electricity to the rest of Europe. 

This provided a way to offset Russian energy blackmail, including Russia's halt of flow through the Nord Stream pipelines.

Had Western countries, including the USA, provided Ukraine with full air defense capabilities much sooner in the full-scale invasion -- which still has not been done completely -- Ukraine's electricity export capacity could have been protected, as well as its ability to provide energy for its own people.

Unfortunately, after Russia's October 10, 2022 widespread missile and drone attack, Ukraine had to stop energy exportation. 

After Russia's drone attack and approximately 90 missile barrage this past week, approximately half of Ukraine's energy infrastructure is damaged and needs repaired. 

As of late October 2022, Russia had destroyed 90% of Ukraine's wind energy production and 50% of its solar power production. 

With the recent liberation of Kherson City and surrounding communities, Ukrainian authorities are finding additional solar facilities heavily mined or otherwise destroyed or looted by Russian forces

And, Russian forces still occupy the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe.

The reality is that prevention remains far less costly -- to Ukrainians, to Pennsylvanians, and the world -- than trying to play catch up after the fact. 

Yet, we are now here and our politicians have chosen to play into the hands of oil and gas companies seeking to profit off the suffering in Ukraine, including companies that have profited off of operating in Russia during the full-scale invasion and/or during the Russian aggression leading up to it. 

Many of these same companies are also presently pulling in enormous profits while consumers are asked to penny-pinch to heat their homes.

It remains the job of local communities to fight back, to support each other, to call for stronger protection for Ukrainians as what happens there impacts us here, and to force our politicians to support the trend toward cleaner energy amidst the energy crisis we face. 

Our collective future depends on it.

Click Here for the complete article.

(Photo: Inquirer photo of a possible site for the LNG terminal in Chester, Delaware County.)


Lauren M. Williams, Esq. is the founder of Greenworks Law & Consulting LLC, which provides dedicated representation, compassionate client counseling, and advocacy for individuals, community groups, and municipalities in environmental, land use/zoning, and municipal law matters ranging from fracking and industrial agriculture to land stewardship and preservation.  Click Here to contact her via her LinkedIn profile. 



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[Posted: November 22, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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