As an anti-fossil-fuel activist, Christina “PK” Digiulio has worked side by side with politicians like state Sen. Katie Muth (D-Montgomery County) and state Reps. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Upper Uwchlan) and Rep. Dianne Herrin (D-West Chester). Now she is hoping her political allies will stand by her as the Green Party candidate for governor.
“I agree with the Green Party’s Ten Key Values,” Digiulio told Delaware Valley Journal (DVJ). “I especially like that the Green Party first called for a ban on fracking for gas in 2008, when it was instituted by a Democratic governor in Pennsylvania, (and) the Green Party provides a contrast with the gubernatorial candidates from the two corporate parties, who have remained silent about our fossil fuel problems, specifically the health and environmental impacts.”
Digiulio has been a fixture in the fight against the now-completed Mariner East pipeline, an outspoken ally of Democrats like Friel Otten who used the pipeline issue to launch her political career. Like Muth and Friel Otten, Digiulio still wants the pipeline shut down and opposes increased Pennsylvania energy production even as gas and hone heating prices soar.
“I want it to stop,” she told NPR. “I know too many people who have been harmed, so let’s just stop this.”
Digiulio, who holds a BA from Lock Haven University and once worked as an analytical chemist for the Department of Defense, has never run for office before. But she has been active on the ground. “Most of my time within the election season was spent in the field, touring candidates, and having them meet the impacted residents I advocate for, in order to hear their stories, from their perspective,” said Digiulio. “These candidates were from all parties and all levels of government: Green, Libertarian, Republican and Democrat.”
She says the major party candidates are not taking any actual risks in order to protect the health and safety of the people.
“We are grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice, nonviolent resisters, and regular citizens who’ve had enough of corporate-dominated politics,” said Digiulio. “Government must be part of the solution, but when it’s controlled by the 1 percent, it’s part of the problem. The longer we wait for change, the harder it gets.”
Digiulio’s fellow “advocates” Muth and Otten declined to respond to requests for comment about her candidacy.
The likely Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, includes climate change and the environment among his priorities. But Digiulio has expressed disappointment in his handling of the Mariner East pipeline.
“I am appreciative that Josh Shapiro addresses these topics. However, the solutions for a just transition are not clear or are lacking some key issues,” said Digiulio. “It seems familiar to me, another centrist position or a compromise with the [fossil fuel] industry lobby.”
Shapiro has criticized Gov. Tom Wolf’s push to get Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), saying it is not clear RGGI will address climate change while protecting energy jobs and ensuring affordable power.
“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,” Shapiro said in a statement in October 2021. “As governor, I will implement an energy strategy which passes that test, and it’s not clear to me that RGGI does.”
Digiulio said actions speak louder than words.
“I and other community watchdogs have spent the last 5-6 years documenting this on the Mariner East pipeline for plastics project,” said Digiulio. “[Shapiro’s] position is not enough, his action is what we must look at, (and) I wonder if he sees compromising or settling with a serial offender of human rights violations, environmental violations, and our state and federal laws, as bringing justice to the harmed?”
Digiulio questions what Shapiro was doing in his time as attorney general.
“Did he ever realize that he needed more data in order to do his duty, aka protecting the impacted people of Pennsylvania and the environment?” said Digiulio. “For example, some ideas I know are available: a groundwater impact study, full-scale hydrogeological studies, or maybe look into a forensic geologist? Leaving the people to defend for themselves (data-wise) against two entities which have a history of poor behavior and lots of money, still places people with much less money and resources, against a Goliath.”
Digiulio added Shapiro “seems to be playing a political goal of pleasing voters with an environmental perspective while at the same time pleasing the industry by settling outside of court against the will of impacted residents.”
The Shapiro campaign rejected Digiulio’s criticism.
“Throughout his entire career, Josh Shapiro has worked to defend Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air and pure water,” spokesperson Will Simons told DVJ. “As governor, he will continue that work by investing in clean energy and clean transportation, adopting (the) 2020 grand jury report recommendations to minimize health hazards arising from fracking, capping orphaned oil and gas wells, and addressing lead contamination in order to keep protecting Pennsylvania’s environment.”
Pointing to his time as a state representative, the campaign said Shapiro fought hard for passage of the Pennsylvania Energy Independence Fund, a $650 million spending package aimed at developing the commonwealth’s alternative energy industry and addressing the rising cost of utilities.
“As attorney general, Shapiro took on the Trump administration to halt their rollback of environmental regulations — including winning a court ruling that required the U.S. Department of Energy to issue national energy efficiency standards after the Trump administration refused to implement the standards,” said the Shapiro campaign. ”Shapiro also issued a grand jury report on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s failure to protect the public’s health from the effects of fracking.”
Shapiro is the only Democrat currently running for governor. Nine Republicans have filed paperwork to run. The primary is May 17.