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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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New Study Shows Energy Exports Big Win for U.S. Economy

Progressive Democrats are demanding a ban on all U.S. oil exports, claiming it would drive down the price of gas at the pump. Nationalist Republicans are attacking the Biden administration for selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve on the open market, allowing millions of barrels to be bought by China.

But new research shows allowing U.S. oil and gas exports abroad leads to more wealth and work for Americans here at home.

The study, conducted by consulting and communications firm ICF on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC), analyzed the six years since the ban on exporting U.S. crude oil was lifted in December 2015. The data showed enabling exports not only reduced global oil prices by an average of $1.93 per barrel but also added $161 billion to U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and added around 50,000 jobs to the economy.

“American energy leadership doesn’t just deliver significant benefits to Americans – fueling the U.S. economy and American jobs, delivering reliable energy, and helping put downward pressure on prices, but it also strengthens global security and supports our allies,” said API President and CEO Mike Sommers in a statement. “U.S. energy exports provide critical stability to the global market, support our allies across the world who depend on American energy to meet their needs, and strengthen American energy security here at home.”

If the United States is not exporting energy, Sommers argued, it leaves the door open for unstable nations or those with less stringent environmental standards to fill the void and reap the benefits.

“As this analysis shows, lifting the ban on crude exports in 2015 saved Americans money at the pump, supported thousands of good-paying American jobs, and reduced our country’s dependence on foreign oil,” said AXPC CEO Anne Bradbury. “At a time when Americans are hurting from the price at the pump, it’s clear that increasing the global supply of crude oil is critical to lower energy prices here at home and greater energy security around the globe.”

While the news may come as a surprise to some people and politicians, organizations including the Institute for Energy Research (IER) say this is precisely what needs to be done.

“In a basic economic sense, increasing the market for a product is likely to lead to increased production of that product,” IER Director of Policy Kenny Stein tells Inside Sources. “So, allowing U.S. oil to be sold to anyone at higher international prices naturally led to increased domestic investment and production.”

Additionally, a crucial problem with the crude oil export ban was U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast were not designed to refine the types of light oil that were booming due to the hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) revolution.

If the light oil could not be exported and domestic demand was limited, Stein said there was little incentive to continue investing in increased production.

“Lifting the export ban allowed domestic production to truly take off, turning the U.S. into a net oil exporter for the first time in more than 50 years,” said Stein. “Lifting the export ban should always have been considered a slam dunk policy move, all upside, and no downside, and this study shows that clearly.”

Linnea Lueken, Research Fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute, said Biden administration policies are hurting, not helping prices.

“Recent restrictions on domestic oil and gas production, namely moratoriums on leasing and similar hostility have had the opposite effect,” said Lueken. “The U.S. is capable of being not only energy independent but energy dominant too.”

Environmental groups are not fond of natural gas or LNG exports. Organizations including Sierra Club have long argued that “natural gas production creates greenhouse gas emissions every step of the way” before it is ultimately consumed at, say, a power plant.

“Exported natural gas must be liquefied, kept cold, transported overseas, then regasified before it can be used,” wrote Sierra Club in a 2021 report. “All of these extra steps translate into CO2 emissions up to 21 percent greater than plain old natural gas.”

Still, supporters of natural gas say the U.S. is the best choice to go after these and other fossil fuels.

“Natural gas and LNG exports are particularly important to the U.S. economy,” said Lueken. “If production and exploration for oil and gas were allowed to continue the way it was before, and if an expansion of our export capacity was encouraged by removing unnecessary regulatory hurdles, we could also play a role in helping our European allies cushion the blow of potentially losing exports from Russia.”

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Ciresi, Neafcy Face Off Again in House 146 District

When they faced off two years ago in House District 146, incumbent state Rep. Joe Ciresi (D-Royersford) easily bested his GOP opponent, Thomas Neafcy by about 5,000 votes.

But the politics of 2022 are very different. President Joe Biden is polling in the low 30s, gas prices are soaring, and polls show voters are ready for a change. Enough change to flip this district? That is what Neafcy is hoping.

Thomas Neafcy

Ciresi, who is seeking a third term, is quick to note he is willing to buck trends in his own party.

“I know some of my colleagues get upset with me because I’m not progressive enough at times. I am progressive, but I look at a different way to get there. I don’t believe that tomorrow everything should be renewable. I believe it all needs to be renewable, but you need to buy into that.”

One thing both candidates agree on is the economy is the most pressing issue.

Republican Neafcy, a former Limerick Township supervisor, blames Biden’s policies for a historic surge in inflation that has raised the price of gas, food and rent.

That is squeezing Pennsylvanians, especially families and retirees on fixed incomes, said Neafcy, who secured the GOP nod through a write-in campaign in the May primary.

“We’re heading into a recession. People on fixed incomes or retired are scared to death,” said Neafcy, who counts himself among those who are worried after retiring following more than 30 years working for PECO. “We’re in terrible shape under President Biden. Inflation’s out of control. Gas prices are out of control. Jobs aren’t what they should be. We’re in trouble and it’s going to hurt for a while.”

Ciresi pointed to the state’s $42.8 billion spending plan that allocated more than half a billion dollars in additional spending for K-12 education as providing some relief for taxpayers.

Nearly $250 billion is going to help the state’s 100 poorest districts, the Associated Press reported, along with  $140 million in direct property tax relief for residents through a one-time bonus rebate program proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D).

“We all know the economy is a major issue,” Ciresi said. “And it continues to be an issue. This budget that just came out helped a lot of people.”

After giving up his supervisor seat last year following decades in public service, Neafcy said was drawn into the race after the Montgomery County GOP failed to put up a candidate in the primary. He said he felt a responsibility to step up after serving virtually every level of local government in Limerick Township.

“I have one philosophy, and I’ve always kept it. I will give you an honest answer,” Neafcy said. “You may not like it, but I’ll tell you the truth. You can take it to the bank. I don’t play that game. I believe in honesty and integrity.”

Ciresi, a former Spring-Ford School Board member, comes from a plain-speaking Italian family whose influence is obvious in how he carries himself.

He littered his interview with DVJournal with colorful language and jokingly told a childhood story of how his mother brusquely laid into an irritated motorist who honked at them while they were broken down at a light.

He hopes his straight-talking ways and commitment to doing the “right d**n thing” no matter what appeals to voters who are disillusioned with Democrats because of Biden’s unpopularity.

Neafcy attacked his opponent’s record on education, claiming he is a “special-interest” candidate aligned with his biggest donors, including the teachers unions.

Neafcy supports school choice and was critical of legislation that Ciresi sponsored aimed at changing charter school laws and the way schools are funded.

“He’s trying to defund charter schools,” Neafcy said. “He’s not working for the kids. He’s working for the teachers’ unions.”

Ciresi, who serves on the House Education Committee, has been critical of the state’s funding formula, particularly an antiquated “hold harmless” policy, around since 1992 to ensure school districts aren’t funded less than they were in previous years. He believes it created steep imbalances among schools with shrinking or increasing student enrollment.

“It was a good idea at one point. It doesn’t work,” Ciresi said. Growing school districts raised property taxes to offset the state’s underfunding. This year’s budget includes a $225 million increase for Level Up aimed at addressing the iniquities, he said.

 

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Easttown Township Supervisors Vote to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags

The Easttown Township Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to ban single-use plastic carry-out bags at their bi-weekly meeting Monday night.

The township released a statement beforehand on the issue saying, “The use of single-use plastic bags has severe environmental impacts, including entering local waterways, causing harm to wildlife and littering the environment, becoming stuck in or upon natural resources and public property, and blocking storm drains.”

According to the ordinance draft, numerous commercial establishments within the township provide single-use plastic bags to their customers.

The taxpayers of Easttown already pay the costs related to the cleanup of single-use plastic bags from the roadways, trees, sewers, waters, and parks within the township. From an overall environmental and economic perspective, the best alternative to address this situation is to ban single-use plastic carry-out bags, the supervisors said in their statement.

“I think this motion is a great start for our community to address this issue and will directly benefit our residents,” Supervisor Betsy Fadem said.

The law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, at which time no commercial establishment will be allowed to provide any customer with a single-use plastic bag. Establishments that don’t comply after an initial written warning notice will also be liable for a violation.

The measure does allow businesses to provide a customer with a bag that complies with the ordinance at the point of sale. The store must charge not less than 15 cents for those bags provided to the customers.

“I agree with my fellow supervisors that this ordinance is a good sign of progress for our township to be cleaner and more environmentally friendly,” Supervisors Chair Beth D’Antonio said.

One woman objected to the move.

“I’m not supportive of the ban because I’m skeptical about whether paper bags are a better solution than plastic bags. I also wonder about the sanitation of those reusable bags that customers bring and how often they are cleaned after each use,” she said.

Board members also said that this plastic bag ban would conserve resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as waste, litter, and water pollution while improving the quality of life for the township residents and visitors.

However, the data are clear that plastic shopping bags have a smaller carbon footprint than the alternatives. Environmental reporter John Tierney rejects the claim that “single-use plastic bags are the worst environmental choice at the supermarket. Wrong: they’re the best choice.”

And other environmentalists say plastics help the environment by reducing the harvest of similar renewable resources from wildlife and the environment in general. They point out the problem is actually litter, not plastic.

Several other Delaware Valley municipalities have also imposed plastic bag bans, including Philadelphia, West Chester, and Narberth.

However, one downside of the anti-plastic push is that it will put jobs throughout the Commonwealth at risk.

Pennsylvania has approximately 37,221 plastic-related jobs, including 6,931 in the Delaware Valley. In 2019, plastic product manufacturing generated $11.5 billion in economic output and paid $2.1 billion in employee compensation per year.

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SCHILLINGER: Hands That Rocked Cradles Will Rock Midterm Elections

For the first time in political history, Moms will be a force to be reckoned with when determining the outcome of the midterm election. This is what happens when the government and elected officials attempt to strip parents of their rights.

When I became a mother at the young age of 19, the moment my daughter was placed in my arms, I knew without question that I would fight to the ends of the earth for her and her access to the American Dream. If you told me just six months ago that I would be on a statewide campaign for lieutenant governor, I would never have believed it.

Yet, here we are: 25,000 miles in 12 weeks and counting! This is bigger than me. This is a movement of tens of thousands of parents standing up and saying that enough is enough. We are done co-parenting with the government.

After starting Back to School PA PAC with the mission to fully reopen our schools, I knew that we could not stop at just opening schools. There are so many issues that need to be addressed within our public education system. At the top of the list are mask and vaccine mandates, radical curriculum, and sexually explicit content in our libraries. Having a voice in the Executive Branch is essential to address these issues, in addition to parents having a voice in their children’s education.

The past three school years of watching a tyrannical government attempt to destroy our children, their education, and their future was the last straw for many. Just in Pennsylvania, 33 percent of women left the workforce at the start of the pandemic to be home with their children for virtual learning.

The Moms that were not able to leave their employment were tasked with finding caregivers, relying on family, or suffering from the guilt of leaving their children unattended while they went to work to ensure they could put food on the table. The weight of the world has been placed on women’s shoulders.

Even though it has been an incredible lift, the Moms have borne this burden admirably, and they will win the midterms. The Moms will take back our commonwealth and our nation. I am honored to be that voice for the Moms across Pennsylvania and to stand up to Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

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Green Mandates Have Created ‘Energy Bitcoin’ Market Driving Up Gas Prices, Experts Warn

A little-known federal mandate designed to encourage renewable fuel use has morphed into a form of ‘energy bitcoin’ driving up gas prices, critics say. And the costs are endangering energy jobs right here in the Delaware Valley.

 Fueling American Jobs Coalition, a collaboration of union workers, local gas station owners, small retailers, and independent American oil refiners, is pushing for reforms that could protect workers and ease pain at the pump.

“Union jobs are at stake,” said Jim Snell, business manager for Steamfitters Local 420, one of the unions participating in the coalition. “It ties in directly to this whole RINs issue.”

Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) are part of the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) system used to address carbon emissions.

“When refiners are not able to essentially generate enough fuel from the RFS they must buy or sell those credits,” Nick Loris, Vice President of Public Policy at Conservative Coalition for Climate Solution told Delaware Valley Journal. “If the refiners can’t comply by generating their own fuel, then the demand for these credits increases, and that increases the price of these credits anywhere from 30 cents to a few bucks.”

High gas prices are hurting the Biden administration politically. An ABC/Ipsos poll found 70 percent of Americans disapprove of how Biden is handling the issue, and the White House is reportedly looking at temporary changes to renewable fuel regulations to address the problem. According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the administration may allow the sale of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol this summer — the so-called “winter blend” — to keep supplies up and help bring prices down.

Loris thinks temporarily waiving blending requirements for refiners could provide some relief.

“Spring is the time of the year where some of these refiners will shut down and switch from winter to summer grades of gasoline,” he said. “Studies have estimated that can add five to 15 cents per gallon, and while it’s a sensible regulation, it helps reduce smog, that temporarily reprieve of this regulation can help avoid an even higher cost increase at the price of the pump.”

Then there is the cost of the RINs themselves. Instead of a regulatory tool to help cap emissions or promote renewable fuel production, they have become a form of “energy bitcoin” with an intrinsic value of their own. According to the Fueling American Jobs Coalition, a group promoting reform of the RFS system, the price of RINs rose 1,250 percent between January 2020 and January 2022.

“It’s clear it has become its own phony market, much like carbon credit trading that is wrecking the European Union and its members,” Dan Kish, distinguished senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research. told DVJournal. “The middle-men make all the money and the farmers who produce ethanol and consumers end up paying the price.”

“We’re spending more on RINs than to run six refineries—more than on all other operating costs combined,” said Brendan Williams with BPF Energy in a recent interview on WPHT radio.  “RINs are raising fuel costs, putting jobs and fuel supplies at risk.”

Some of those jobs are at the Monroe Energy refinery in Trainer, Pennsylvania.

“A stone’s throw away, also on the Delaware River but inside Delaware, is a refinery called PBF,” says Snell. “Those two facilities are union facilities, and if either one of those refineries is suffering, struggling, which they have been, it’s going to threaten the closure of those refineries, and that puts my members out of work and members of the Philadelphia building trades along with Steamfitters 420.”

Meanwhile, it is not just building trades at risk. Snell notes workers at the refineries are represented by the steelworkers union.

“But I’m here to tell you that down the street, so to speak, if that refinery was to close due to the RINs issue, (it would be bad),” says Snell. “They’re not crying wolf. They’re doing everything they can to keep that place open. But somebody might just come in and say ‘that’s it, lock the gates, it’s over,’ and that’s what we’re scared to death might happen.”

Supporters of renewable fuels and the RFS do not think reforms are necessary. 

“Some oil refiners want to have it both ways,” says Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “First, they argue RINs are a cost they have to ‘eat’ and they can’t pass on. Then they say they fully pass on their RIN cost all the way to consumers in the form of higher gas prices.”

Cooper disputes those claims.

“The truth is, refiners don’t really have to buy RINs at all—if they just purchased and blended the biofuel volumes as required by law, then they would not need to purchase RINs from refiners who blend more biofuels than required,” says Cooper. 

In any event, Cooper says it is broadly understood that refiners who choose to buy RINs instead of blending biofuels pass RIN costs on to wholesale customers, but not to retail pump prices. 

“Even the biggest U.S. refiner (Marathon Petroleum), the American Petroleum Institute, and EPA itself agree that all refiners, both small and large, recoup the cost of RIN credits through higher wholesale prices for gasoline and diesel,” says Cooper. “Meanwhile, RIN prices do not have an effect on retail fuel prices, according to EPA and independent university researchers. The primary driver of retail gasoline prices has always been crude oil prices—that has not changed in the RFS era.”

Snell is not pleased. He hopes legislators will do something fast. If they do not, it may be at their own peril.

“If I’m one of these people up for reelection in the fall, the one thing I want to see is the price of gas going down,” says Snell.

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MASTRIANO: Reshoring Manufacturing Jobs to Pennsylvania Will Solve Supply Chain Woes in the Long Run

The arrival of COVID-19 brought to light several underlying issues in America. But perhaps the issue that has been most exposed is our overreliance on products made outside of our borders.

International disruptions such as pandemics, natural disasters, and political upheaval significantly impact our nation’s supply chain of goods. The result of that disruption is stunted economic growth and increased prices for American consumers.

During my travels around Pennsylvania, it has been hard to ignore the abandoned factories and hallowed out towns throughout our commonwealth. Once vibrant communities were replaced with vacant lots and blight. Parents had to say goodbye to their children as they moved far away to find any kind of stable employment. Drugs usage and welfare replaced prosperity and family building.

It wasn’t always this way. Pennsylvania towns used to be a “keystone” to America’s ability to make products desired around the world. Our iron and steel once built the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam, and the Empire State Building.

In 1999, manufacturing jobs accounted for 865,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. By 2019, that figure shrunk to 575,000.

The transition of jobs from the manufacturing sector to the service sector had a disproportional effect on men without a college degree in our commonwealth. Their lack of a degree and unique specific skillset made it difficult to find other good paying and fulfilling jobs.

Fatal foreign policy mistakes by the federal government and the failure of Pennsylvania’s state leaders to replicate pro-business polices implemented in other states were significant factors in the downfall of our manufacturing sector.

Many economic analysists point to the early 2000s as a consequential period that accelerated the decline.

Twenty years ago, the World Trade Organization made the fateful decision to admit the People’s Republic of China as member nation. The same WTO that oversees the global system of trade rules and regulations. China’s entry also granted them permanent “most favored nation” status in trade with the United States. Prior to its WTO entry, that status had to be approved on an annual basis by the U.S. Congress.

The monumental economic and political effects emanating from China’s entry into the WTO continue to reverberate today.

It opened the floodgates for foreign trade and investment into China’s markets. Most significantly, it led to China’s domination in the manufactured goods export market. China’s share of global manufacturing exports went from 4 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2020.

China’s advantage of an overabundant labor force, lax labor laws, and large government subsidies give them an unfair advantage when it comes to attracting companies to manufacture goods on their shores.

America’s trade deficit with China grew by over 400 percent from 2001-2018. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, this amounted to the loss of 3.7 million overall American jobs from 2001-2018.

While international agreements, automation, and changes in technology were factors in the decline of manufacturing in Pennsylvania, our state leaders certainly didn’t do any favors to keep the jobs we had or attract new investment.

While the manufacturing sector largely contracted in northeast states like Pennsylvania, other states adapted their business policies and found ways to attract new investment opportunities.

Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic research conducts a comprehensive nationwide manufacturing industry scorecard every year dating back to 2009. The scorecard examines factors such as tax climate, regulatory environment, and human capital.

Every year, Pennsylvania has received a grade of “C” or worse when it comes to manufacturing health. Conversely, states like Michigan, Kentucky, and South Carolina receive an “A”.

Michigan, Kentucky, and South Carolina all saw an annual average manufacturing growth rate of 2 percent or more since 2009, according to the U.S Bureau of Economic Analysis. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s growth was anemic at less than 1 percent.

How do we make Pennsylvania more attractive to prospective manufacturers? Let’s start with much needed regulatory reform.

Pennsylvania was rated at No. 35 in the nation for regulatory environment, according to Forbes Best Business Ratings.  With over 153,000 regulations on the books, we have one of the most burdensome regulatory codes in the country. It would take an individual about 713 hours—or just under 18 weeks—to read the entire Pennsylvania Code.

Review, modification, and rescindment of onerous regulations can be the genesis of a manufacturing resurgence. There is a cost to every regulation. That cost is exacerbated when the regulation is no longer needed. Regulations need to be reviewed on a regular basis to determine if they continue to be needed, require modification, or require termination. By creating a consistent review schedule, the General Assembly can determine whether a regulation should be continued, modified, or terminated.

Additionally, creating a “2 for 1” model (removing 2 regulations for any new regulation) is something we should adopt here in Pennsylvania.

We also must improve our permitting process. Members of the General Assembly often hear from prospective employers who ask, why does it take so long to get a permit? Where does my permit stand? What is the holdup?

We saw this issue in practice when U.S. Steel decided to pull out of a $1.5 billion investment in the Mon Valley Works in Braddock. After delays in getting approvals and permits, US Steel called it off and the region lost out an opportunity to gain hundreds of good paying, blue-collar jobs.

Passing legislation to create a tracking system for permit applications and permit and third-party review of permit decision delays will go a long way to address concerns of business owners and bring greater transparency to the permitting review process.

We need to make our state a more attractive tax climate.  Our current Corporate Net Income Tax is the second largest in the country at 9.99 percent. For comparison, Arkansas’ corporate tax rate of 5 percent recently helped them land the most advanced steelmaking facility in North America that is expected to produce 3 million tons of advanced steel per year.

Reducing the corporate tax burden by at least 2 percent here will help us compete with other states to attract prospective manufacturers. Thankfully, it appears that this idea is starting to gain bipartisan support.

But I also believe that a corporate tax reduction should be contingent on employers agreeing to retain or attract a certain number of jobs in the commonwealth. We must ensure these companies are doing their part to invest in our people.

Will Pennsylvania’s manufacturing employment and output ever return to its heyday? Not likely.

But there are steps that our commonwealth can take now that will instantly make us a more attractive location for manufacturers to grow and invest. Pennsylvania manufacturing sector once powered America into the Industrial Revolution and helped her become the “Arsenal of Democracy” through two World Wars.

We can lead the way once again in reshoring jobs to America and stabilizing our supply chains in the long run.