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GALLAGHER: Main Street Depends on Steel Jobs

Amidst the challenges facing Pennsylvania’s Main Street businesses, the looming threat of job losses casts a shadow of uncertainty. As the state grapples with the future of its steel industry, the choice between preserving local jobs or succumbing to further consolidation grows ever more critical. In this pivotal moment, the entrance of Nippon Steel potentially represents a beacon of hope for Pennsylvania’s workforce.

With a commitment to preserving US Steel’s identity and honoring agreements with workers, Nippon is making a serious effort to assuage job loss concerns by committing to keeping jobs in Pennsylvania and prioritizing the well-being of local communities. According to a press release, U.S. Steel will “retain its iconic name and headquarters in Pittsburgh” if bought by Nipon Steel Company (NSC) rather than Cleveland Cliffs.

NSC said it would honor agreements with the U.S. Steelworkers Union: “All of U. S. Steel’s commitments with its employees, including all collective bargaining agreements in place with its unions, will be honored and NSC is committed to maintaining these relationships uninterrupted.”

It is not only the steel industry workers who benefit from keeping jobs in the state, family businesses of all shapes and sizes depend on steel workers as a customer base and benefit tremendously from the steel industry’s economic footprint.

The job picture in Cleveland is less clear. An article last year in Cleveland Magazine cited sources that said the Cleveland company was preparing to ship a significant number of jobs from Pittsburgh to Cleveland. The article claims: “a major tenant is gobbling up more office space. The tenant, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., is adding hundreds of office workers to the building, a number that could reach 2,000 employees in the next few years if it is able to acquire Pittsburgh-based rival U.S. Steel. If that happens, two sources who are close to Cliffs’ executives say Cliffs will reconsider 200 Public Square as its headquarters of what would become the nation’s largest steelmaker.”

The Cleveland company’s apparent track record of consolidation paints a concerning picture of the potential consequences for Pennsylvania’s Main Street. This pattern of consolidation has left communities reeling, with Main Street businesses bearing the brunt of the fallout. Reports of potential job relocations and consolidations have sparked fear among Pennsylvania residents, who have borne witness to the devastating effects of previous mergers and acquisitions as well as the fallout from past trade deals like NAFTA.

In order to preserve Main Street jobs and preserve the fabric of Pennsylvania’s communities, Pennsylvania lawmakers should oppose any deals that are likely to move jobs out of Pennsylvania. The long-term consequences of further consolidation are clear: more job losses, more economic hardship, and more uncertainty for Pennsylvania’s Main Street. In the face of mounting challenges, Pennsylvania’s policymakers must seize this opportunity to champion the interests of their constituents. The time to act is now, for the sake of Pennsylvania’s workers, families, and communities.

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Pittsburgh Is Top Ten for Job Seekers While Philly Can’t Make Top 100. Why?

The Eagles may fly, and the Steelers may stink, but when it comes to jobs, Pittsburgh is kicking Philly’s economic aspirations.

The question is, why?

A new WalletHub data analysis ranked Pittsburgh as the eighth-best city in America for job seekers, while Philadelphia was far in the back of the pack at 142nd. It’s not just that Philly is trailing the Steel City. The Delaware Valley’s economic hub can’t keep up with Rochester, N.Y., Toledo, Ohio, or Jersey City, N.J.

Now that hurts.

America’s top city for jobseekers is Scottsdale, Ariz., followed by Tampa, Salt Lake City, and Columbia, Md.

“The stark contrast between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the 2024 job market rankings highlights the critical role of location in shaping employment prospects,” said Wallet Hub analyst Cassandra Happe. “With Pittsburgh securing an impressive 8th position and Philadelphia lagging at 142, the disparity underscores the multifaceted nature of job markets, encompassing factors such as job opportunities, employment growth, and socio-economic conditions.”

Allegheny Councilman Sam DeMarco III said some reasons for Pittsburgh’s favorability for job seekers are a higher unemployment rate of 3.7 to Philadelphia’s 3.5. There’s also a larger portion of aging residents in Pittsburgh, with 15.1 percent 65 or older compared to 14 percent in Philadelphia.

Allegheny County has also lost 12,000 residents in the last decade, DeMarco noted.

“We have a tight labor market,” said DeMarco. He noted a 2016 report on the Pittsburgh-area labor market showed those trends, saying more skilled employees are needed as Baby Boomers retire.

None of the Philadelphia city officials contacted by DVJournal would comment. Nor would the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Perhaps out of embarrassment?

Not all the news about Philly is bad, said Happe. “Philadelphia has a higher monthly average starting salary and industry variety” than Pittsburgh, she said.

However, “Pittsburgh excels in job opportunities, employment growth, lower unemployment rate, higher job security, higher median annual income, and slightly shorter work and commute time,” said Happe. “These factors contribute to the overall contrast in their rankings for the best cities for jobs in 2024.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last Friday the total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 216,000 in December, and the unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent.

Employment continued growing in government, health care, social assistance, and construction, while transportation and warehousing lost jobs.

Ralph E. McKinney at Marshall University’s Lewis College of Business said he believes fields associated with personal services “will see the greatest growth.”

“The healthcare industry has a critical need for nurses, caregivers, and supportive specialists. Although AI can process information more quickly than human counterparts, there is a need for individuals to supervise and review analysis. Finally, occupations in the trades (e.g., electricians, plumbers, and welders) are expected to increase,” McKinney said.

WalletHub also ranked Pittsburgh high in its best and worst places to start a career. The Steel City came in at 10th place, with Atlanta as the best. Philadelphia came in at 121.

The website used data ranging from unemployment rates to median salaries to housing and transportation costs in its evaluation.

DeMarco noted Pittsburgh has all the advantages of city life, such as cultural amenities and top-notch medical facilities, with a much lower crime rate than Philadelphia. With 300,400 residents, there were 52 murders last year.   Philadelphia had 410 homicides with 1.5 million residents.

“Crime is nowhere near as bad as Philly,” said DeMarco.

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Report Calls LNG Export Terminal a Boon for DelVal Economy; Opponents Aren’t on Board

Whether southeastern Pennsylvania becomes the base for a liquified natural gas terminal remains unclear after the release of a much-awaited report from the bipartisan Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force.

“Our abundant natural gas resources not only fuel economic growth within the commonwealth but also offer us a unique opportunity to meet growing energy demand across the globe while creating tens of thousands of jobs and generating billions of dollars in yearly economic activity that can benefit communities in the Southeast region,” said task force Chair Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia).

Recommendations in the final report include:

  • Facilitating pathways to support the current skilled labor workforce and workforce of the future by promoting educational opportunities and partnerships with the industry, institutions of higher education, and K-12 schools—especially those located in the Greater Philadelphia area and surrounding communities.
  • Streamlining and improving the permitting process in Pennsylvania to balance regulatory considerations with the need for an effective and efficient permitting process to attract investment in Pennsylvania.
  • Calling on Congress to reform the Jones Act to facilitate the transport of LNG between U.S. ports.

“As this report shows, Pennsylvania is poised to help address the increasing global demand for affordable, reliable energy by leveraging its abundant supply of natural gas and exporting LNG overseas,” said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania. “Under the leadership of Rep. White, this task force has put forth a comprehensive report and roadmap for Pennsylvania to establish an LNG export facility that would bring significant new investment and economic growth to the region and generate thousands of new jobs. Advancing the recommendations outlined in the report, including permitting reform at the state and federal level, is critical to developing an LNG export terminal and thus expanding Pennsylvania’s role as a global energy leader.”

Task Force member Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford) said, “Pennsylvania’s diverse energy portfolio, robust energy sector, and extensive geological formations make us uniquely qualified to address the demand for affordable and reliable energy.”

“We already know the benefits of an LNG terminal are far too great to ignore, and the final report of the task force serves as a solid roadmap to position Pennsylvania as a global leader in energy exportation,” said Yaw, who chairs the environmental resources and energy committee. “Through the report’s recommendations to streamline the permitting process, strengthen our skilled labor workforce, and facilitate the safe and efficient transportation of LNG, we have the potential to create jobs, support economic development, reduce harmful emissions, and restore energy independence to this country.”

Toby Z. Rice, president and chief executive officer of EQT Corporation, a natural gas producer, sees this as a moment to seize the economic opportunity from the state’s standing as “a leading energy supplier.”

“For the first time in decades, the number of people without access to electricity increased in 2022. The task force’s report is clear – making clean, affordable, reliable Appalachian natural gas available on a global scale will increase energy security, decrease global emissions, and promote family-sustaining jobs across the Commonwealth. We have an incredible opportunity before us to unleash U.S. LNG from Pennsylvania, which will address the global energy shortage and generate thousands of jobs for Pennsylvanians,” Rice said.

Jim Snell, business manager of Steamfitters Local 420, likes what he sees in the report. “I am thrilled with the adoption of the final report from the Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force. This is an important step toward realizing the economic benefits of an LNG export terminal in our region, which can create thousands of well-paying union jobs and support the hard-working men and women in our community.”

White said the recommendations in the report are aimed at growing Pennsylvania’s economy, supporting Pennsylvania workers, and developing the future workforce.

“The adoption of this report is especially important in light of the decision by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court voiding Pennsylvania’s entrance into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state energy tax program that would have increased energy costs for Pennsylvanians,” said White. “We have the opportunity to not only increase energy production safety and efficiently and work toward reducing energy costs for Pennsylvania consumers.”

Carl Marrara, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, conducted an economic analysis, finding the LNG export facility would benefit the local, regional, and statewide economies.

“Assuming a four-year constriction phase, a similarly sized LNG export facility would produce over 7,000 jobs per year, with approximately $575.35 million in labor income alone added to the state and local economy. In total, construction of the facility would add approximately $1.195 billion in total yearly economic output.

“The industries most positively impacted from the increase in economic activity are those in the skilled trades, led by jobs created for the construction of the facility structures, as well as commercial and industrial machinery repair, concrete manufacturing and fabricated pipe and fitting manufacturing,” Marra said.

However, some local officials are lining up to oppose any LNG development.

Chester Mayor-elect Stefan Roots told DVJournal he is concerned about pollution and the danger an LNG terminal might bring.

“There’s a public health and public safety issue first and foremost,” said Roots. Typically, these plants are built on at least 1,000 acres of “unpopulated land,” he said. “To squeeze all that onto 100 acres displaces dozens and dozens of families, churches, and established entities here to create the blast zone that they need, which indicates this is not a safe business, is something I don’t like.”

It is also unclear whether Gov. Josh Shapiro will support the effort to locate an LNG facility in the Delaware Valley. His spokesperson did not respond when asked whether the governor supports an LNG terminal for southeastern Pennsylvania.

The bipartisan Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force was comprised of members of the General Assembly, representatives of the natural gas industry, organized labor, the Port of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Gas Works, the mayor of Philadelphia, and members of the governor’s administration.

Will the $750M Hydrogen Hub Fight Crime? Experts Say That’s a Stretch

Does poverty cause crime? Do more jobs mean fewer criminals?

That was one of the messages from Pennsylvania Democrats at the announcement of the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2) in Philadelphia last week. It will cost taxpayers $750 million in federal investments. Gov. Josh Shapiro touted the 20,000 jobs projected to be created, as did fellow Democrat Mayor Jim Kenney.

“This is about public safety,” Kenney said of the MACH2 project, arguing that young men who are currently involved in gun crime and “nonsense” will get jobs that will keep them out of trouble.

“These young boys out there who are in nonsense. Who are holding guns and shooting each other,” Kenney said. “They don’t need to do that when they’re making $80-90k a year. There’s no need for that. They get up and go to work, put on their work boots or whatever they wear to work, and go to work early in the morning.”

Shapiro agreed. “He is spot on. It means real opportunity for the kid living here in North Philly who maybe doesn’t want to go to college but wants to get to work. Wants to be able to get out of the cycle of violence that has gripped some in his neighborhood.”

But does growing up poor make people more likely to commit crimes? Do low-income families also have lower standards of moral and ethical behavior? It is an argument some advocates for the poor find demeaning. It also doesn’t appear to match the data.

Overall, the national average official poverty rate fell from 14.8 percent in 2009-2011 to 11.2 percent in 2019-2021, the Census Bureau reports. But the nation’s crime rate rose by about 40 percent over that same period.

“In our political discourse, for more than a generation, we’ve had this idea that poor people are sinners,” said the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, an ordained Presbyterian minister who co-chairs the Poor People’s Campaign.

That has Heather Mac Donald, Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, suggesting Kenney is misleading the public.

In his comments, Kenney said jobs would help reduce crime because “kids see them going to work early in the morning is the best example you could ever give to a young person. To see their mom and dad get up and go out to work and not have to be involved in dangerous nonsense.”

Mac Donald said Kenney had the social science half right.

“He is correct that children raised by their two parents are far less likely to take up the gangbanging life,” Mac Donald told DV Journal. “He is also correct that a family where the parents work provides an essential model of bourgeois values and self-discipline.

“Mayor Kenny is wrong, however, that there is any necessity, economic or otherwise, that drives the perpetrators of drive-by shootings. The thugs who are wantonly spraying bullets across sidewalks and into cars and homes are not doing so because they have no food on the table.”

Mac Donald sees gang warfare as a “result of a lack of socialization” as opposed to a lack of jobs and that no one “who has a smartphone” lacks economic opportunity. She also takes umbrage at the notion that two-parent households with working parents have to earn $80,000 a year to feel the positive impacts of work and family cohesion.

“It is the discipline of work itself, not the salary level, that is essential to the socialization process.”

Justice reform advocates disagree with Mac Donald but suggest Kenney was speaking too broadly.

“What we do know is that education and jobs reduce recidivism, but that’s also easier said than done,” said Jason Pye, Director of Rule of Law Initiatives at the Due Process Institute. Pye said there is limited data on the issue. “Many employers won’t entertain hiring someone with a criminal record, so record-sealing and expungement become important…Reducing recidivism increases public safety.”

There is evidence that this tactic might work. Michigan passed its clean slate law in 2020. Pye said only 4.2 percent of those who got their records cleared committed another crime. Less than one percent were convicted of violent crimes. Other states might see similar numbers.

The Manhattan Institute argues otherwise. It cites a 2022 Columbia University research paper on poverty in New York City, and New York Police arrest data. Specifically, it noted that 23 percent of Asians in New York City had incomes below the poverty level, but they also had a low murder arrest rate, as proof there isn’t a cause-effect relationship between being poor and being a criminal.

And then there is the pragmatic question of who will get these jobs.

The Biden administration announced that union-mandate Project Labor Agreements will cover all of the projects in the MACH2 hub. According to Shapiro, that means “14,400 in construction jobs and 6,400 permanent jobs for skilled, union laborers, including plumbers, pipefitters, electricians, and more.” They will be working on solar farms, wind tower installation, and power transmission.

But how many of those “skilled union jobs” that will be paid for by the $750 million in federal spending are likely to go to the young people in low-income communities Kenney is talking about?

The hydrogen hub may or may not be the right way to fight climate change. But there is little evidence that fighting crime is the right way.

Millions of U.S. Jobs Are at Risk From Climate Policy

Five and a half.

That’s the percentage of full- and part-time jobs in the U.S. economy attributable directly and indirectly to fossil fuels—a massive number, just under eleven million in total.

Those figures are from a timely report demonstrating just how much the U.S. benefits from fossil fuel-related employment—and how much it stands to potentially lose a green-new-deal policies loom on the horizon.

The analysis by consulting firm PwC carried out for the American Petroleum Institute found that the oil and natural gas industry’s “direct, indirect, and induced impacts” on the U.S. economy “amounted to 10.8 million full-time and part-time jobs and accounted for 5.4 percent of total U.S. employment in 2021.”

The industry’s “total impact on labor income,” meanwhile, was valued at “$908.7 billion, or 6.4 percent of the U.S. national labor income in 2021,” while the total impact on US GDP the same year was “nearly $1.8 trillion, accounting for 7.6 percent of the national total.”

Those economic benefits face an uncertain future as the Biden administration pushes aggressive green-energy policies that directly target fossil fuels. Critics say these anti-fossil-fuel measures also put the reliability of the U.S. electric grid at risk.

New rules by the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, will soon begin mandating gargantuan emissions reductions from U.S. power plants, with experts warning of potential brownouts if less reliable sources like wind and solar can’t meet demand.

It could also threaten millions of U.S. jobs. Stephanie Wissman, the executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s Pennsylvania branch, said U.S. energy regulation significantly hampers the ability of the industry to create even more employment.

“Job growth in any sector depends upon reforming our onerous regulatory processes,” she said. “Getting a project through a federal environmental review – one hurdle among many – now takes an average of 4.5 years.”

“As global energy demand is projected to increase, policies should support American energy and infrastructure development and the millions of skilled workers across the country who produce and deliver the energy that powers our everyday lives,” she added.

“What’s needed now is comprehensive permitting reform.”

Advocates of energy reform have argued that policymakers can both move the energy grid to renewable fuels while providing relief for workers thrown out of employment due to industry disruptions. Robert Routh, a public policy and regulatory attorney for the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council, pointed to a recent state-level proposal to create an “Energy Communities Trust Fund” to address those concerns.

That measure, he said, would create grant programs for “workforce development and worker training; supplemental unemployment compensation for displaced energy workers; and funding to school districts or municipalities affected by the closure of an energy facility.”

Whether or not politicians are capable of patching the job losses from green energy policies remains to be seen. Government attempts to compensate for lost economic activity often come up woefully short, as the U.S. saw during the COVID crisis when the federal government attempted to make up for billions and billions of dollars in lost economic activity by giving Americans payments ranging from $600 to $1,400.

Fossil fuels, of course, remain firmly embedded in the complex web of the U.S. economy. PwC noted that oil and natural gas exploration and production involve, variously, the mining sector, the manufacturing sector, the transportation sector, the utilities sector, and the wholesale and retail trade sectors.

Joe Trotter with the American Legislative Exchange Council said policymakers must tread carefully when looking to radically change something as critical and as massive as the U.S. energy industry.

“The hardworking folks that keep the lights on for America and our allies have families they need to feed and provide for every single day,” he said, “so any attempt at transitioning the workforce needs to be absolutely seamless, or else workers and their dependents will suffer.”

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Advocates Push for LNG Terminal in Philadelphia at Task Force Hearing

A Thursday hearing of the state’s Philadelphia Liquid Natural Gas Export Task Force saw industry experts argue for the construction of a natural gas terminal at the Port of Philadelphia, with one advocate claiming natural gas is “necessary to power the economies of the world” as more and more countries move toward renewables.

The Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus said on its website the hearing was meant to “receive testimony from various stakeholders regarding safety and security considerations for a potential liquefied natural gas export terminal in or around the Port of Philadelphia.”

David Cuff, a captain with the Pilots’ Association For the Bay And River Delaware, whose organization is “responsible for the safe navigation of commercial vessels on the Delaware River and Bay and its tributaries,” told the panel ships transporting liquid natural gas to the Philadelphia port would pose no special safety challenges.

“We treat every ship and handle every ship the same,” he said. “We bring ships into the port of Philadelphia with 12,000 containers on them. We’re not told what’s on those containers. What we care about is if the ship is safe and handles well.”

Cuff suggested there was little reason to be concerned about traffic volume surrounding a new LNG terminal.

“Speaking to the pilots and the Coast Guard in sector Maryland with Cove Point, it does not disrupt any traffic down there,” he said.

“This is stuff that we’re all learning,” he added. “But it does not disrupt any flow coming in and out of Norfolk or the Port of Baltimore.”

Lisa Himber, president of the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay, told the panel the terminal’s economic benefits could be hugely impactful for the surrounding region. She pointed to the Port of Philadelphia’s already-outsized effect on employment.

“An exchange study from 2021 found that over 156,000 jobs depend upon the regional port, and over 50,000 of those are directly related,” she said.

“The foremost benefit [of the LNG terminal] from our perspective must be the economic impact,” she noted.

The task force was created last November by outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf. Talks of an LNG facility in or near Philadelphia have been in the works for years.

Former Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who left Congress earlier this year and now serves on the leadership council of the pro-gas group Natural Allies, argued that natural gas can help with “defeating global coal use, increasing American competitiveness in the world, enhancing our global security and ultimately driving down global carbon emissions.”

“In the absence of natural gas, the world burns dirtier forms of energy, primarily coal,” Ryan argued.

“Unless decision makers are willing to advance permitting reforms and approve the infrastructure necessary to move natural gas where it’s needed,” he said, then it will be “nearly impossible to achieve our global climate goals.”

Ryan pointed to recent energy shockwaves in Europe, where officials were reduced to “restarting mothballed coal plants to keep the lights on following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s also true here at home where regions like New England have faced natural gas shortages each winter after years of political posture and blocking new natural gas pipeline expansions.

“Pennsylvania sits at the edge of one of the largest natural gas supplies in the world,” Ryan pointed out, “making it a huge economic benefit to capitalize on LNG potential.”

He argued natural gas is “necessary to power the economies of the world as we scale up renewables.”

Not all attendees were supportive of the terminal proposal. Adam Nagel, the campaign manager for the clean energy nonprofit Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, said his organization has “actively opposed the expansion of LNG facilities” in the state “through advocacy and litigation.”

Nagel argued that there was an “inherent danger in the installation and operation of an export terminal in the Port of Philadelphia.” He said that an accident at a gas terminal could pose critical risks to communities surrounding the Philadelphia port.

“Serious concerns exist with the city of Philadelphia’s ability to manage crises,” Nagel said, pointing to the recent spillage of toxic chemicals in nearby Bucks County.

State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) asked Ryan how he would respond to Nagel’s claims about the risks of transporting and storing natural gas.

“We’ve been exporting [LNG],” Ryan responded. “It’s on the seas; it’s safe, it’s reliable. No major catastrophes have happened. This is just something that we need to continue to do.”

Nagel admitted his organization would still oppose the terminal even if safety concerns were addressed. “There’s still the question of environmental safety and security and public health, safety and security,” he said.

“From a public health and environmental health, safety, and security standpoint, I do not believe we could ever get to a place where we would support such a terminal in the Port of Philadelphia,” he said.

Dustin Meyer, the vice president of natural gas markets at the American Petroleum Institute, echoed Tim Ryan’s earlier suggestion that natural gas is only one way an economy should be powered.

State Rep. Joe Hohenstesin asked Meyer whether regulators should “take it on faith and trust that the natural gas industry is going to also see itself as the bridge fuel to renewables.” Meyer countered that the natural gas industry “would never suggest that natural gas needs to be or should be a hundred percent of electricity generation.

“I think most people would agree is that the electricity generation portfolio of any given region or state or country is going to be much more diverse 10 years from now, 20 years from now than what it is today,” he said.

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‘Little to Celebrate’ in New Report on PA Jobs, Unemployment

Just days after Gov. Tom Wolf’s appearance at a White House celebration of the Biden administration’s economic policy, a new report shows Pennsylvania has one of the worst-performing job markets in the U.S.

According to the Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank, the Keystone State has the 8th highest unemployment rate in the nation at 4.2 percent, compared to the 3.7 percent national average. Only Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Alaska, New York, and Illinois have higher jobless rates.

In addition, some 110,000 Pennsylvanians dropped out of the labor force between Jan. 2020 and Aug. 2022, the Commonwealth report said. And the state lost 108,000 payroll jobs since Feb. 2020, a whopping 189 percent decline.

“Gov. Wolf must be disappointed,” said Commonwealth Foundation Senior Vice President Nathan Benefield, the report’s author. “He recently attended President Biden’s celebration of a massive government spending bill that was misleadingly labeled an inflation-reducing bill. Unfortunately, there’s little to celebrate.

“These numbers must be a wake-up call for Pennsylvania and national lawmakers,” he said.

And, Benefield noted, the same day the White House was touting the s0-called “Inflation Reduction Act,” Consumer Price Index showed prices have risen 8.3 percent since last August. Food prices alone surged 11.4 percent year over year, the largest 12-month increase since May 1979. And the CPI for the Delaware Valley showed an 8.1 percent year-over-year increase as well.

“It’s not going away anytime soon,” Benefield added.

The Democrat and Republican candidates vying to succeed Wolf, who is in his last year in office, commented on the report.

“Josh Shapiro knows Pennsylvanians are worried right now, and he has a concrete plan to reignite our economy, spur innovation and job creation, and reduce costs for Pennsylvanians. As governor, Josh will reduce taxes, cut burdensome red tape, invest in our workforce, and put money back in Pennsylvanians’ pockets,” said a Shapiro for Pennsylvania spokesperson.

Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s campaign spokesman said, “The recent report from the Commonwealth Foundation only underscores what most Pennsylvanians already know — Pennsylvania’s Democrat leadership has destroyed our economy and continues to pursue a radical policy agenda that will make things worse for everyone. These facts are what Doug Mastriano’s opponent, Josh Shapiro, is hiding from. He wants to embrace the policies that produce such devastating results for working families in Pennsylvania. This election is our opportunity to make a change and save the commonwealth by electing Doug Mastriano governor.”

Benefield told the DVJournal there are various reasons people have not returned to the workforce, including generous unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, and homeschooling children.

“Pennsylvania has historically been a slower growth state,” said Benefield. “Partly because of our high tax burden and regulatory burden and business climate. So it’s not terribly shocking to see it lagging the rest of the country in some of these indicators.”

“It really is about economic freedom, the differences among states,” he said. States that did not lockdown their citizens as harshly as Pennsylvania did during the pandemic have recovered more quickly, he noted.

While Pennsylvania has abundant natural gas with the Marcellus Shale and many excellent colleges and universities, it has not taken full advantage of these resources.

For example, “in terms of getting (shale gas) to market there are some issues with pipelines,” said Benefield. The gas is “one of the things that we should embrace. It would certainly help with inflation.” Pennsylvania also needs to give some “regulatory relief” to the energy sector, he said.

And while the state’s top-notch universities draw students, there is a brain drain when they complete their education and move away, he said.

“When they graduate they look for other opportunities,” Benefield said. We are “seeing our kids and grandkids leaving the state and then it’s been an out-migration state.” Although, regionally, some residents of New York and New Jersey, where taxes are even higher move here, many Pennsylvanians have headed off to Texas, North Carolina, or Florida “where there’s been greater economic growth, “he said.

And the trend of office workers working from home rather than returning to the office has had a ripple effect on small businesses like restaurants, where sales have decreased.

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Are Green Foreign Agents Bankrolling Shapiro Campaign?

Climate change activists opposed to energy production in Pennsylvania like what they see in Josh Shapiro, the attorney general now running for governor. 

Campaign finance records show the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund (NRDC) is contributing to the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania Action Fund, which in turn is contributing to Shapiro’s gubernatorial bid. 

That is significant because both political action committees are tied in with well-endowed environmental groups that have been the subject of congressional probes into Russian-funded efforts aimed at disrupting America’s energy sector.

The NRDC, which has more than $460 million in assets, according its most recent tax filing, incessantly lobbies in favor of regulations restricting energy use in Pennsylvania. The New York-based nonprofit has also published reports designed to undermine public support for innovative drilling techniques like hydraulic fracturing that make it possible to access oil and gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation of sedimentary rock that cuts across parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania Action Fund is affiliated with the League of Conservation Voters, which tax records show has more than $20 million in assets.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a group that supports energy companies and their employees, has a blog post detailing the harm that could be done to America’s economic, environmental, and national security interests in the event of a ban on hydraulic fracturing. That seems to be the overriding goal of the NRDC, and other environmental activist groups, that figure into a money trail allegedly leading back to Russia. 

In 2017, U.S. House members sent a letter to then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, calling attention to the role played by the Sea Change Foundation, a private entity based in San Francisco, that received funding from an overseas source. 

The foundation received $23 million from a Bermuda-based shell company between 2010 and 2011, which was then funneled into groups like the NRDC, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund in the form of grants, according to the letter. 

For the record, the NRDC has also been called out for maintaining close relations with China that suggest it may be operating in violation of foreign agent registration requirements.  In 2018, members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee sent a letter to NRDC inquiring about its collaborative efforts with Chinese government officials. 

The group has denied operating as a foreign agent. But thanks to its well-heeled benefactors, it has ample funds to put Pennsylvania residents who rely on affordable, reliable energy at a great disadvantage. 

Big Green Inc., a project of the Institute for Energy Research, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, has tracked hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing from left-leaning foundations into the coffers of green activist groups that target Pennsylvania. That database shows the Sea Change Foundation has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state since 2010. 

What are the implications for the governor’s race in Pennsylvania and the future of energy policy for the state?

Although Shapiro postures as an ally of trade unions on the campaign trail, he is also accepting funds from environmental activist groups that target the industries supporting union workers. Even so, those same trade unions have contributed almost $3 million to Shapiro’s run for governor since 2021, according to campaign finance records. But is the attorney general really devoted to protecting union jobs associated with coal, oil, and gas companies? 

A spokesman for Shapiro said the Democrat wants to keep Pennsylvania’s energy sector strong.

“Josh Shapiro rejects the false choice between protecting jobs and protecting our plants – he believes we must do both, and he will support Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry, invest in clean energy, and protect Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air and pure water. He will protect the jobs we have while creating thousands more, and that’s why workers in the energy industry and environmental advocates have endorsed his campaign,” said Shapiro campaign spokesman Will Simons.

NRDC Action Votes and the Conservation Voters of PA Victory Fund recently announced they would spend $500,000 in independent expenditure campaign funds on behalf of Shapiro. Apparently, environmental activists expect Shapiro to cut a path toward their preferred regulatory policies if elected. 

That’s a problem not just for Pennsylvania, but for the American people as a whole. The U.S. Energy Information Administration identifies Pennsylvania as the nation’s number two natural gas producer after only Texas and the number three coal-producing state after Wyoming and West Virginia. It’s not hard to understand why a Russian propaganda campaign would attempt to take down Pennsylvania’s energy industry. 

Even if the green groups don’t view themselves as foreign agents, they clearly view Shapiro as a conduit for anti-energy initiatives that benefit America’s foreign adversaries. 


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WISSMAN: PA Prospers With a Strong Energy Economy

Pennsylvanians are feeling the pinch of record-high inflation and energy costs. The global mismatch between energy demand and available supply has put upward pressure on prices, which isn’t helped by the current policy and regulatory environment.

What’s needed now to help boost supply, as well as bolster our economy and U.S. energy leadership, are policies that encourage investment in energy exploration and infrastructure build-out. And in Pennsylvania, with its abundance of shale gas, policymakers should embrace energy as part of the state’s economic competitiveness and create a climate that attracts additional investment.

Natural gas development in Pennsylvania has proven to be an economic boon for the state, bringing in billions of revenues annually, generating over $2.2 billion in impact fee funding during the last decade, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and signaling to other companies, both large and small, that they should invest here.

Natural gas and oil activity has not only contributed directly to Pennsylvania’s economy but has also boosted manufacturing, logistics, banking, construction, and many other sectors in the state – more than $78.3 billion in total economic impact.

Research has shown that every direct job in the natural gas and oil industry – over 102,000 – generated an additional 3.7 jobs in Pennsylvania. Good jobs mean family-sustaining wages that are spent on homes and at restaurants, retail stores, and small businesses.

Pennsylvania has prospered in many ways from a strong energy sector. But more can – and should – be done to ensure the commonwealth is one of the best places to do business and continues to grow its energy economy.

This year, state lawmakers advanced measures to bring more investments and jobs to Pennsylvania, while continuing to hold the line on policy proposals that could harm our state’s national standing as a top energy producer.

Pennsylvania is clearly making progress. Yet, to embrace all that Pennsylvania has to offer, we need predictable regulations and efficient permitting, as well as a business climate that keeps the Keystone State competitive.

In June, the American Petroleum Institute (API) unveiled a 10-point policy plan that would strengthen U.S. energy leadership and unleash investment in America. These policy solutions, like removing obstructions to permits for natural gas projects, accelerating liquid natural gas (LNG) exports, approving applications for new export terminals, and designating critical energy infrastructure projects, would create new energy access while avoiding harmful government policies and duplicative regulations.

These solutions offer energy producers ways to supply more American-made natural gas and oil to consumers here at home and our allies abroad–not to mention generate good jobs, increased tax revenues, and economic development.

Rather than rely on foreign regimes for natural gas and oil, we should encourage domestic production in Pennsylvania. And that starts with policymakers at every level of government supporting a statutory and regulatory framework that fosters economic development, allows Pennsylvania businesses to grow and multiply, and supports domestic energy production and infrastructure expansion.

Pennsylvania has led the way in energy production and environmental progress and has the potential to do much more.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, while natural gas production growth in the Appalachia region over the past decade has been helped by improved productivity from wells drilled, regional transportation capacity is nearly full.

Without additional pipeline capacity, access to affordable, reliable energy is limited, and so is the state’s ability to grow its energy economy. Advancing natural gas development and pipeline infrastructure could help meet the dual challenge of powering Pennsylvania homes and businesses while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Under API’s solutions-focused policy plan, projects that support the production, processing, and delivery of energy should undergo a streamlined review and permitting process not to exceed one year.

At this critical time, with high inflation and energy prices hitting families hard, simply put, we need more energy. Ramping up energy production and completing pipeline projects doesn’t happen overnight. That is why we need smartly crafted policies that encourage investment and growth in the energy sector enacted today.

Pennsylvania-made natural gas is key to keeping our state competitive and boosting its bottom line. Consumers benefit, too, with increased access to affordable, reliable energy, and billions in new revenues that are directed to the state and communities in every corner of the commonwealth.

With the right approach, Pennsylvania can continue to build on these gains, safeguard our energy future and stimulate long-term economic growth.

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GUNASEKARA: Fetterman’s Fracking Ban is Wrong for Pennsylvania

It is pretty rare that a candidate for the United States Senate would pledge to kill one of his state’s key industries. Many would call it cold-hearted or out of touch. Some might even say it’s political suicide. John Fetterman? He’d call it a “platform.”

Just this week, comments that Fetterman made during his ill-fated 2016 run for Senate resurfaced. He said, “If we did things right in this state, we wouldn’t have fracking,” calling a critical segment of Pennsylvania’s economy “a stain on our state.”

Fetterman’s callous disregard for the Pennsylvanians who work in the natural gas industry is breathtaking. His ban would immediately upend their livelihoods, leaving them without a paycheck and with few prospects for finding work elsewhere. But the fallout would not end there.

Natural gas development has lifted up all Pennsylvanians, raising home values while attracting workers and investment to the state. One restaurant owner said that a fracking ban would be “disastrous” to her business, too. Already, Pennsylvania families are barely scraping by as inflation eats away at their paychecks month after month. To add in a fracking ban would be just plain cruel.

Fetterman is obviously wrong to advocate for policies that would cripple so many Pennsylvania families. His comments indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of energy policy. The fact is, fracking is a clean way to secure our energy future. As natural gas production and consumption increase, total U.S greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 20 percent since 2005.

Even better, fracking has repeatedly been shown to reduce energy costs — this is especially important as prices continue to spiral out of control. A 2020 study found that a fracking ban would increase annual household energy costs by over $600 per year. Another report by the University of Pennsylvania found that fracking could reduce the long-run volatility of oil prices by up to 42 percent. To leave these savings on the table for the sake of advancing an incoherent far-left environmental agenda would be malpractice.

Producing our energy at home is about more than simple economics, though. It’s imperative for our national security. Just look to Europe, where reliance on Russian gas could lead to rationing in the wake of the war in Ukraine. In an era of more intense global competition, a strong domestic energy supply will undoubtedly be critical if we are called on to defend our nation.

One might think Fetterman’s ban proposal is out of line with national Democrats. Nope. Opposition to fracking is simply another front in Joe Biden’s war on American energy. His administration has halted oil and gas leases on federal land, made production far more costly, and asked for billions in tax increases on energy producers. They brag about sky-high gas prices accelerating the “transformation” to $67,000 electric vehicles, sneering at regular folks who suffer at the pump. And instead of lowering prices at home, Biden shipped more than 5 million barrels of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve overseas—including to China. Put it all together, and the average American family has seen its energy costs increase by almost $1,500 since Biden took office.

Contrast that with the record of the Trump administration, where I served. During his term, the U.S. was the largest producer of oil and gas in the world. For the first time in over 70 years, we were energy independent, ending our reliance on foreign energy imports. We pursued an “all-of-the-above” strategy, harnessing the totality of our energy resources—including oil, gas, nuclear, and renewables—to strengthen our production capacity while working to protect the environment. And gas prices barely topped $3 per gallon. We set out the blueprint for a strong American energy policy. It’s a shame the Democrats tore it up.

The bottom line? Fetterman’s fracking ban is wrong on every front, but I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Economic illiteracy and love for government overreach are staples of every Bernie Sanders acolyte.

Maybe Fetterman should consider that fracking isn’t the real stain on Pennsylvania — he is.

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