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PA Green Groups Back Shapiro Despite Stance on RGGI, Fracking

Environmental activists may say climate change is an existential threat, but it is not enough to keep some of Pennsylvania’s most prominent green organizations from backing Attorney General Josh Shapiro for governor.

Shapiro, the only major Democratic candidate in the governor’s race, has carefully navigated a more moderate stance on energy politics than green groups advocate. He’s refused to call for an end to fracking or support Gov. Wolf’s attempt to push Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state cap-and-trade carbon emissions compact.

Asked by the Delaware Valley Journal where he stands on RGGI, Shapiro said, “We need to take real action to address climate change, protect and create energy jobs, and ensure Pennsylvania has reliable, affordable, and clean power for the long term. As governor, I will implement an energy strategy which passes that test, and it’s not clear to me that RGGI does.

“Ultimately, that is a determination I will make as governor, in close consultation with workers and affected communities. I refuse to accept the false choice between protecting jobs or protecting our planet – we must do both, and my priority will be ensuring Pennsylvania has a comprehensive climate and energy policy that will move all of us forward.”

While Shapiro has filed high-profile court cases against energy companies like Sonoco/ET and individual drillers, he has not joined the green activists’ calls to end all fossil fuel infrastructure development.

But that didn’t cost Shapiro the endorsement of several environmental groups at a press conference at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia on Thursday.

The Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, National Wildlife Foundation Action Fund, PennEnvironment, the Clean Air Action Fund, and Clean Water Action all offered praise and support for Shapiro.

Much of the press conference focused on his record before becoming attorney general.

As a state representative for his hometown of Abington, the first bill Shapiro worked on was Growing Greener II, an open space preservation law. While chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, he added to the trail system and reduced the county’s energy use by half, he said. And also bought electric cars for the county’s fleet of vehicles.

As governor, Shapiro promises to take Pennslyvania from 8 percent renewable energy consumption to 30 percent by 2030 and put the state on the path to “net zero emissions” by 2050. He also promised to remedy lead pipes in older cities, and make sure kids who live near factories can “play in their backyards.”

“I played a lot of defense in the Office of Attorney General,” said Shapiro. “But I’m ready to play some offense.”

Shapiro derided the nine Republicans running for governor as “cut from the same cloth.”

“They have no plans to be able to address public health and public safety. If anything, their plans exacerbate the problem,” he said. “They want to give industry a free pass. I’ve been very clear. I don’t give industry a free pass. We hold the powerful accountable, those powerful, well, they’re the ones backing their candidacies. How are we ever going to be able to have faith in them to ensure our safety and wellbeing in Pennsylvania?”

Asked where he stands on fracking, Shapiro does not oppose it but would require companies to adhere to laws.

“We cannot accept the false choice of choosing between environmental justice and the dignity of work and energy opportunity,” said Shapiro. “I think we can have all of those things and we should have all of those things in Pennsylvania. We can be a leader in energy and not just with natural gas but with renewable energy…making sure we have responsible fracking in the commonwealth.”

Asked about high gasoline prices, Shapiro proposes giving a $250 rebate per car to residents, at an estimated cost of around $2 billion, though Shapiro’s campaign disputes that figure.

He also proposes capping abandoned wells to cut methane emissions, which he claims would create jobs.

Asked why they endorsed Shapiro rather than Christina “PK” Digiulio, the Green Party candidate for governor, Katie Blum with the Conservation Voters said, “We were proud to stand with Pennsylvania’s leading environmental advocates and offer a historic joint endorsement for Josh Shapiro to serve as our next governor. Josh is the only candidate in the race with a proven track record of holding polluters and corporate special interests accountable. And his platform is focused on protecting Pennsylvanians’ rights to clean air, pure water and open space while building a clean energy economy that creates union jobs and powers us into the future. We need a champion who can win and who, once in office, will fight for Pennsylvania families and not the special interests. And that person is Josh Shapiro.”

Nathan Benefield, senior vice president with the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank, was not impressed.

“Embracing environmental extremists and their radical agenda is another poke in the eye to Pennsylvania workers, especially those relying on family-sustaining jobs in our energy sector, and a slap in the face to consumers already struggling to pay their bills because of rising energy costs,” said Benefield. “These radical environmental groups, funded by out-of-touch liberal endowments, work to shut down pipelines and LNG facilities, preventing Pennsylvania natural gas from reaching markets, and enriching Russia and Putin.”

He added, “Attorney General Shapiro needs to rethink how he seems to be using his office for political gain rather than protecting Pennsylvania families.”

Dave Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association, was not surprised that those organizations would endorse Shapiro.

“Gov. Wolf is doing the bidding of the radical Greens. Attorney General Josh Shapiro could have stopped it and didn’t.”

 

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Abington Native Josh Shapiro Holds Rally in Hometown Campaign Kick Off

About 200 supporters cheered and applauded Josh Shapiro at a campaign rally on the Penn State Abington campus Wednesday evening.

Earlier in the day, the state attorney general announced his candidacy in Pittsburgh and via video. In a speech that at least one observer likened to former President Barack Obama’s cadences and gestures, Shapiro touched on his campaign’s key points, including “change,” transparency, competency, social and environmental justice, and  promoting organized labor so that “every worker has the right to join a union.”

Shapiro, 48, said while serving as a state representative for Abington and Upper Dublin he “learned to be a voice for the people, knocking on 18,000 doors.”

“When I became the first Democrat to lead Montgomery County in 150 years, the county wasn’t working when we took over,” the former chair of the county Board of Commissioners continued. “Partisan bickering and budget scandals and massive budget deficits were holding us all back. But we didn’t listen to the people who said, ‘That’s the way it’s always been done.’ We rolled up our sleeves, we got to work, and we turned county government around. We not only put the county back on stable footing while we were in charge. We helped restore our AAA bond rating, fired the Wall Street money managers so we could save millions and protect the retirement of our seniors.”

As attorney general, Shapiro says he fought “the powerful and the well-connected.” He touted his grand jury investigation into the Catholic clergy and the church’s cover-up that brought some 300 pedophile priests to light and his litigation to obtain money from pharmaceutical companies that sold addictive opioid medication.

“I want you to know that I will stand up to anyone who abuses their position,” he said. “I will not back down from that fight.”

He also said he championed the people’s right to vote that “came under attack from the most powerful office on earth.”

“When they went to court to prevent our votes from being counted, we stopped them,” Shapiro said. “We stood up to their mobs and we won in court to protect the will of the people every single time…We will continue to protect the right of Pennsylvanians to vote.”

He also promised to help businesses grow and families “keep a roof over their heads.”

“Main streets matter in Pennsylvania,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro added he would make sure every child has access to a good education “no matter what ZIP code you live in,” and that everyone has access to physical and mental healthcare.

“As we just saw in this pandemic, when the people needed government’s help, often times they couldn’t get answers,” Shapiro went on, slamming the Democratic Wolf administration.  “Often times they couldn’t even get their phone calls returned. That is not okay and that will change.”

Shapiro pivoted to attack his Republican opponents, saying they are not focused on these “challenges.”

“Instead they’re peddling the ‘Big Lie,’ they’re passing far-right litmus tests, and they’re pandering, pandering out of a profound weakness,” Shapiro said. “The private personal information of nine million Pennsylvania voters, that’s what they’re up to…Not only are they doing real damage to our democracy but they’re holding us back from meeting this important moment.”

He promised to “repair our roads and bridges and connect every Pennsylvanian to the internet from Waynesburg to West Philly.” He said the state should use its “first-class universities” to become a center for research and innovation and promised to promote vocational education, as well.

“Let’s lead the way on energy because we shouldn’t have to choose between protecting our jobs and protecting our planet, that’s a false choice. We need to invest in clean energy and create jobs in Pa. We need to protect every Pennsylvanian’s constitutional right to clean air and pure water.”

Shapiro also pledged to bring people together and work across the aisle.

“I am sick and tired of hearing that we’re Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and Alabama in the middle,” said Shapiro. “That is simply not true. That is not who we are.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Gerow, a political consultant and business owner, called on Shapiro to resign from his post as attorney general.

“Josh Shapiro has never finished a job he asked the voters and taxpayers for and now he’s running for governor just months after being sworn in,” said Gerow. “Josh Shapiro must be honest with the taxpayers who pay his salary and admit that he has no interest in the job he asked for but wants to campaign for another office while staying on their payroll.  He should immediately resign as attorney general.”

Republican Bill McSwain, the former U.S. Attorney for southeastern Pennsylvania who is also running for governor said, “Josh Shapiro is a career politician who supports higher taxes, bigger government, more regulation, less freedom, and lawlessness. Dedicated to prioritizing his own career over the needs and desires of Pennsylvanians, Shapiro stands for the continuation of the same failed economic and public safety policies of liberal Governor Tom Wolf and would provide no new solutions to put Pa. on a path to prosperity.  Pennsylvanians deserve a governor who will put their needs first, and who views the office as an opportunity to enact positive change, not as a mechanism for his own professional advancement. It is time for a governor who will stand up and show up for our citizens, and I plan to be that governor.”

U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean

U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) was among those who introduced Shapiro to the crowd. She promised Shapiro would protect abortion rights.

“Josh knows we have to protect our democracy, our elections, and the fundamental right to vote,” she said, praising his defense of the 2020 election results. “That fight continues. That’s why we need Josh more than ever.”

“So much is at stake,” Dean said. “As John F. Kennedy said, ‘The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man (are) threatened.’ That’s true for you and me. The threats continue but the opportunity is right here in front of us. That’s why Pennsylvania needs and deserves Josh Shapiro to be the next governor.”

Several supporters spoke to the Delaware Valley Journal while awaiting Shapiro’s speech.

Abington resident Fran Earley said he has known Shapiro since he got into politics and finds him to be “focused.” “He has time for you and I find that important,” said Earley.

Marianne Gassman of Glenside called Shapiro “very fair-minded (and) terribly pragmatic. He’s just got a lot of common sense and he can work with both sides of the aisle.”

Ali Feldman

Blue Bell resident Beverly Hahn echoed Glassman and added, “He gets things done. He’s honest. He a real person. He’s authentic. He’s devoted his life to public service.”

Ali Feldman, of Ambler, who was wearing a “tax the rich” facemask said Shapiro is “driven” and “has integrity.”

“He fights for what’s right,” Feldman said. “He’ll build a better future for all of us.”