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Progressive Dems Abandon Anti-Pipeline Politics as Election Approaches

Progressive Democrats in Delaware and Chester Counties were swept into office in 2018 over incumbent Republicans, thanks in part to pipeline politics. Issues with the construction of the Mariner East Two pipeline and the political potency of climate change combined to elect Rep. Danielle Friel Otten in Chester County and Sen. Katie Muth in Chester/Montgomery.

Following the trend, Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf pushed past the GOP-controlled legislature in 2019 to add Pennsylvania to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), insisting it was necessary “given the urgency of the climate crisis facing Pennsylvania and the entire planet.”

In 2022, however, pipeline politics have shifted. Soaring energy costs, rising inflation, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have Democrats talking very differently about energy policy – when they talk about it at all.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, for example, has repeatedly refused to say if he would support keeping Pennsylvania in the RGGI. And instead of denouncing fossil fuels, the Democratic candidate for governor is taking a broader approach on energy policy.

“I will be an all-of-the-above energy governor who will take advantage of the unique position we have in Pennsylvania to create more jobs, while also utilizing our natural resources and protecting the jobs we already have,” Shapiro told DVJournal.

That may be one reason the Boilermakers Local 154 union endorsed Shapiro over pro-fossil-fuel Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano.

Mastriano tells DVJournal he favors oil and natural gas production and would like to see a liquid natural gas (LNG) plant built in Philadelphia, creating jobs with its construction and operation.

“Europe relies heavily on Russia for its oil and gas. An LNG export terminal will allow Pennsylvania to export our valuable natural gas to this crucial market,” Mastriano said. “Thousands of new jobs will be created in the Philadelphia area, especially for those in the building trades. Additionally, new revenue from the exports will be reinvested into the Pennsylvania economy. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

It is hardly a surprise that a conservative Republican like Mastriano supports more energy infrastructure. What is interesting is the shift among Democrats, including those on the progressive left.

President Joe Biden may be restricting access to federal oil and gas leases and shutting down major pipelines, but in Pennsylvania, even a progressive like U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman has abandoned his previous calls for a ban on fracking. Nor does he still talk about implementing a “carbon cap” tax policy that could have raised gas prices to about $7 a gallon.

At a more local level, anti-pipeline warriors like Muth and Friel Otten appear to have moved on. Friel Otten famously made comments about local pipeline workers, comparing them to Nazis, a statement denounced by the Anti-Defamation League and her own Chester County Democratic Party. Friel Otten eventually apologized, albeit reluctantly.

As recently as this year, Friel Otten joined with Muth in an effort to shut down the completed Mariner East 2 pipeline, making complaints that turned out to be unfounded. But as the election has approached, those Democrats have been largely silent on pipeline and energy infrastructure issues.

Today, the word “pipeline” doesn’t appear anywhere on Muth’s campaign website. There are only vague references “corporate polluters.”

What happened? Muth and Friel Otten declined to respond to requests for comment. But Muth’s GOP opponent, Jessica Florio, was more than happy to talk about her support for expanding the state’s energy economy. And she has won the endorsement of the Philadelphia Building Trades.

“Actions speak louder than words,” said Jim Snell, Business Manager, Steamfitters Local Union 420. “Sen. Muth talks about her support for working men and women, but then she turns around and votes repeatedly against jobs for union workers. We want someone we can trust. Florio will defend the rights of working men and women and push policies that will create jobs and help union workers.”

Republican strategist Charlie O’Neill said Democrats’ energy policy sounds good in speeches to green activists, but it fails the real-world test for voters who want reliable, affordable power.

“The concerns raised by Democrats on pipelines aren’t based in reality,” said O’Neill. “Fossil fuels are and will remain the main source of energy in Pennsylvania, the United States, and the world. At a time when energy prices continue to rise, voters believe Democrats and Republicans should be working to make the transportation and production of energy as easy as possible.”

Snell puts it more bluntly. “People who oppose pipelines should turn off their gas furnaces this winter. They won’t, of course. But they’ll still try to have it both ways, complaining about infrastructure development while benefiting from the energy it delivers. It’s the height of hypocrisy.”

Shapiro said he believes there is a third way between the “leave it in the ground” absolutism of the far left and the “Drill, baby, drill” mantra of some on the right.

“I refuse to accept the false choice between protecting jobs or protecting our planet – we can, and we must, do both. And my priority will be ensuring that Pennsylvania has a comprehensive climate and energy policy that moves us all forward. As governor, I will bring everyone around the table to implement an energy strategy that does just that.”

 

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Despite Shortages and Soaring Prices, West Coast AGs Fight to Block Natural Gas Pipeline

California may be facing an energy shortage and rolling blackouts as a heat wave hits the state, but that is not stopping officials from trying to shut down another international pipeline.

Attorneys general from Washington, Oregon, and California are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to deny a proposed expansion of the Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) Express pipeline. They acknowledge the pipeline, which runs from Alberta, Canada to the Golden State, would “increase the amount of natural gas carried by the pipeline by 150 million cubic feet per day.”

But unlike energy sector observers and retail consumers warning of a natural gas shortage, those state officials – all Democrats – say the increased fuel supply is a bad thing.

The additional natural gas into the West Coast’s energy grid would “result in increased greenhouse gas emissions and downstream impacts on nearby environmental justice communities,” they argue.

GTN falls under the umbrella of TC Energy, a Canadian business and parent company of Keystone XL.

The attorneys general also claim GTN’s application “has not demonstrated sufficient evidence of a public need or that the project is in the public interest.” They even took a shot at FERC, saying an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the pipeline “fails to analyze these impacts” or to reconcile the expansion with state laws and policies promoting renewable energy.

“(That is) in violation of the Natural Environmental Policy Act,” they said in a statement.

Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN) said there is nothing to be concerned about with this pipeline. For starters, GAIN said the GTN pipeline currently delivers natural gas from Alberta through a pipeline that runs from Idaho to eastern Washington, through Oregon, and connects with existing pipeline networks in California. According to GAIN, the expansion project would increase capacity and allow for more clean natural gas to be distributed.

“The federal government has comprehensively reviewed the project, ultimately finding its impact would ‘not be significant,’” said GAIN spokesperson Craig Stevens. “Further, their analysis confirms the current proposed route is the best available, stating, ‘the EIS also concludes that no system or other alternative would meet the project objectives while providing a significant environmental advantage over the project as proposed.’”

Critics argue the states’ opposition to the pipeline expansion appears to be more political than environmental.

“This strikes me as a political effort that does nothing to help the environment but may risk increased heating costs,” said Todd Myers, Environmental Director at the Washington Policy Center.

Pointing to Washington and California, Myers said both have very strict CO2 emissions caps, and the protest by the attorneys general does nothing to change those.

“This effort simply changes how natural gas is delivered, not how much is allowable to be used or demanded,” said Myers. “So, this does not change the total CO2 emissions in either state and does not reduce the risk from climate change. It simply risks making it more expensive to legally heat homes.”

The attorneys general are not budging. Attorney General Rob Bonta (D-Calif.) maintains expanding the pipeline’s capacity would have significant environmental and public health impacts and is out of step with state and federal climate goals.

“FERC can’t honestly say otherwise,” Bonta said. “The reality is, when we expand gas infrastructure, it’s all too often minority, low-income, and Indigenous communities that pay the price.”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D-Wash.) agreed adding, “this pipeline is bad for the environment and bad for consumers.”

That is why these chief law officers claim they joined forces.

“The West Coast is experiencing very real impacts of climate change and leading the climate fight,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D-Ore.).

Myers said the attorneys general are making contradictory arguments, something he thinks indicates they are grasping for arguments rather than addressing real risks.

“Claiming on the one hand that expanding the pipeline will increase the use of natural gas and CO2 emissions while also claiming that, in their words, “restrictive natural gas policies in the affected states” will make it hard to use the pipeline efficiently,” said Myers.

In the 19 months since President Joe Biden unilaterally canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, the political debate still rages. Biden, who campaigned on fighting climate change and transitioning the U.S. away from fossil fuels, said Keystone XL “disserves the U.S. national interest.”

Since then, global natural gas supplies have been pummeled by supply chain issues, soaring post-pandemic demand, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In Europe, businesses and families are facing restrictions on heating this winter due to Russian-imposed restrictions on the natural gas supply that has triggered a 400 percent increase in wholesale gas prices.

And yet three additional major U.S. pipeline projects, the PennEast, Atlantic Coast, and Constitution, have all been canceled in the face of lawsuits and regulatory resistance in the past two years.

Why, consumer advocates ask, would the U.S. want to restrict the flow at a time when utility costs for average families are soaring?

“American consumers continue to bear the brunt of volatile energy costs, largely driven by misguided energy policies,” Stevens said. Although prices have stabilized in recent weeks, now is the time to make investments into energy infrastructure to ensure access and affordability for consumers.”

If the attorneys general are successful, Stevens said he thinks their actions would cost the U.S. construction jobs, weaken the economy, and make the world more reliant on energy from countries hostile to the U.S.

“More broadly, it will also have a chilling effect on infrastructure investment across the nation.”

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WISSMAN: Here’s Why Pennsylvania Needs More Natural Gas, Pipeline Infrastructure

As Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and most recent action to cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, continues to impact already volatile energy markets, the European Union (EU) is looking to the U.S., the world’s largest producer of natural gas, for help.

In an effort to diminish Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas, President Biden and the EU announced an agreement establishing a joint task force to expand U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) exports. Additionally, the Department of Energy recently approved four new LNG permits for projects in Texas and Louisiana.

Welcome news, certainly.

Yet, while the White House strikes a deal to send more LNG to Europe, the administration unveils astoundingly contradictory policies that undermine America’s energy leadership and ability to deliver cleaner, reliable U.S. LNG across the Atlantic, including:

  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s proposed policy statement on the certification of new interstate natural gas facilities, which will generate significant uncertainty and impede the development of the pipeline capacity needed to serve new export terminals, and
  • The administration’s revised National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Phase 1 regulations that dramatically slow the permitting process for critical energy infrastructure and create new obstacles for natural gas development.

More mixed signals like these from Washington do not help encourage much-needed industry investment – and at a critical time when the world needs more energy, not less.

As the second-largest producer of natural gas in the nation, Pennsylvania has the potential to help alleviate natural gas shortages and aid our allies. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, while natural gas production growth in the Appalachia region over the past decade has been aided by improved productivity from wells drilled, pipeline buildouts and increased takeaway capacity, regional transportation capacity limits have been reached.

Without adequate pipeline and energy infrastructure, Pennsylvania is missing a massive opportunity to boost our economy while bolstering energy security here and abroad. Poor policy decisions at the federal level and numerous legal challenges have led to pipeline constraints in Pennsylvania and neighboring states, affecting access to abundant, reliable natural gas in New England and beyond.

Given the vast supply of shale gas in Pennsylvania, policymakers should support policies that encourage new investment and the build-out of energy infrastructure. Advancing natural gas and pipeline infrastructure in southeast Pennsylvania could make the region a leading LNG exporter in a matter of years, meeting the increased demand overseas while helping reduce carbon dioxide emissions with cleaner natural gas.

The U.S. could do even more to support long-term energy security in America and abroad with effective policies such as expediting LNG permits and the review process for interstate natural gas pipelines. This one-step-forward, two-steps-back approach to energy policy is not encouraging investment and impeding access to abundant, reliable, American-made energy that can help provide stability and security in the U.S. and abroad.

As Europe turns away from Russia as a source of natural gas, the ability of the U.S. to further ramp up its export capabilities will likely be critically important to global energy market stability as well as climate goals. Pennsylvania-produced natural gas – in the form of LNG – can help meet the dual challenge of powering the world while lowering greenhouse gas emissions if we allow it.

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VOGEL: Stop Biden’s Inflation by Sending a Republican to Congress

When I talk to the citizens of the 6th Congressional District, the number one complaint is always the same: the Biden Inflation is crippling their household budgets. Working families in Berks and Chester counties are getting crushed by inflation this country hasn’t experienced in 40 years.

March’s annualized inflation rate hit a record 8.5 percent. The median household income in Pennsylvania is $70,000, but adjusting for inflation, these families are taking over a $5,000 pay cut.

The sharpest teeth in inflation’s bite are reserved for lower-income earners. The greatest increases in prices are occurring for gas and food, both of which constitute a larger portion of a family’s expenses with the less they earn. Rent is often the biggest monthly expense for working families, and that has also been increasing at a record pace.

The inflation has two drivers: the cost of oil has doubled since Biden took office and the federal government has accelerated deficit spending, adding $7 trillion in additional debt since COVID. These two factors, coupled with COVID shutdowns and lockdowns, backed by neither science nor common sense, have caused real harm to families across all income levels and especially for those struggling at the lower end.

The solutions are equally apparent. We must undo President Biden’s war on oil production (the only war he seems to be able to win), and we must put an end to wasteful spending.

During the Trump administration, we were an oil exporting nation. Due to Biden’s crackdown on expanding domestic production as well as reducing our refining capacity by shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline, we are more dependent on bad actors in the world like Russia and OPEC and more at risk for the wild price fluctuations that we are experiencing now.

COVID has been used as an excuse by the government not just to shut down businesses and schools, but to dramatically increase spending. We must we end this spree funded by debt that will cause future generations to suffer. We need to make hard choices about reforming the entitlement programs that consume a majority of the budget and are teetering towards bankruptcy.

Not only has our incumbent congresswoman, Chrissy Houlahan, not taken any action to address the macroeconomic issues that have forced a universal pay cut on her constituents, she and others like her, are at the root cause of the problem.

Houlahan voted for the reckless Biden budgets that have poured metaphorical gasoline on the inflationary fire, but she’s also opposed any effort to increase production of real gasoline here in the US.

As your next congressman, I will introduce legislation that expands our production, and I will not vote for any budget that does not contain a significant pathway towards regulatory reform and a massive reduction in spending.

The leftwing media recently suggested that middle-class Americans deal with inflation by cutting back bulk purchases, letting pets die rather than visiting the veterinarian and eating lentils instead of meat. I propose a much easier option: vote out far-left Democrats like Chrissy Houlahan that have brought us here and elect people like myself with a real solution to end inflation and restore the wages of working families here in Pennsylvania and across the country.

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BARR: It’s Time U.S. Energy Policy Stops Empowering Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has plunged Europe into crisis with his invasion of Ukraine. His stated goals are to destabilize the country to bring the nation back under Russia’s control. In response, it’s time we hit Putin where he knows it will hurt – through the energy sector. Unfortunately, there’s been a raft of bad policy decisions at the state and federal levels that need to be reversed to make this happen.

The United States and the European Union are discussing economic sanctions against Russia for its violations of international order. But at the same time, due to a lack of pipeline infrastructure and regulatory pressure to reduce domestic production from the Biden administration, the U.S. has dramatically increased the volume of imported Russian oil. Federal energy regulators note that in 2021, imports of Russian oil doubled year-over-yearto the highest level in a decade. Russia is now, unfathomably, the second-highest exporter of oil to the United States. Oil is by far Russia’s biggest and most profitable export – and it’s time to shut that off. In the meantime, America and its neighbors in Canada and Mexico have abundant supplies of oil to replace this resource. But we need leadership in Washington.

Instead, due to litigation from environmental groups, exploration of new resources on federal lands has stalled. Just days ago, the Biden administration announced it was pausing any new drilling on federal lands. At the same time, federal officials have revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have brought in much-needed energy from our biggest trading partner, Canada. The Biden administration has also waffled on whether or not to oppose Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s attempts to vacate another critical pipeline, Line 5, which brings in oil that supplies the Great Lakes region, including to the Pittsburgh Airport.

Shutting down Russian imports in exchange for North American energy wouldn’t just hurt Russia – it would be a net win for the environment. Russian energy production is notoriously lax on environmental standards, with Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm going so far to say their production is “the dirtiest on earth,” with fugitive emission rates orders of magnitude above US standards. Despite this, Russia has been granted permission under the Paris climate accords to increase its greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 34% by the end of the decade. In contrast, America and Canada have among the most stringent production standards globally – not to mention that the United States has led the developed world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the past two decades.

Pennsylvania has helped the United States achieve those reductions through its competitive markets and leadership production in shale gas. Our state is now the number two producer of natural gas and the leader in energy exports to other states. Unfortunately, neighboring states like New York and New Jersey have blocked new pipeline construction, to the applause of environmental groups. The result? Power prices and emissions have skyrocketed, and New England has infamously imported Russian gas into its terminal near Boston to keep the lights on in the winter. New England has also had to turn to fuel oil to prevent blackouts, resulting in a 44% increase in greenhouse gas emissions this past winter.

There are economic consequences to shutting down pipelines. Look no further than Germany announcing this week it is suspending the operating permit for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would have imported Russian gas into Europe, in response to Putin’s aggression. As European foreign policy analyst Bruno Macaes once said, pipelines are the continuation of war by other means. Yet Pennsylvania has been hamstrung in its ability to deliver reliable energy to its neighbors and abroad. We have enough natural gas to grow markets here (and reduce emissions) while also exporting more clean-burning fuel to allies in Europe, India and Asia. But the Biden administration has not greenlit any new LNG export or pipeline infrastructure. Domestic LNG cargoes are also forbidden, by the perverse consequences of the protectionist Jones Act, from being delivered to other domestic ports – meaning we can export LNG from Houston and the Gulf for $4.50 per million cubic feet but New England has to import it from much more emissions-intensive locales – like Russia – for seven times more.

Let there be no doubt – private industry in the United States is deploying billions of dollars into low- and zero-carbon energy technologies every year as they execute sustainability plans. In the meantime, there is a great and growing international demand for fossil fuels. Putin knows responsibly produced North American energy reduce revenues for his war machine. That’s why he said in 2013 that shale is a danger and must be stopped, and why NATO Secretary General Rasmussen announced in 2014the defense consortium had intelligence Putin was funding anti-fossil fuel environmental groups (which Hillary Clinton herself confirmed in the run-up to the 2016 election).

Putin’s aggression cannot be left unchecked. To help keep the peace and to build a more sustainable global future, America’s prolific energy resources must be leveraged to the maximum. We can no longer afford state and federal energy policy that accommodates and enriches Russia.

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Biden’s Keystone ‘Blunder’ Still Being Felt A Year Later, Critics Say

Joe Biden kicked off his presidency on January 20, 2021, by killing the Keystone XL pipeline. For the newly-elected Democrat, it was a message affirming his commitment to green energy policies.

For the energy industry, America’s allies abroad, and skilled workers at home, however, the impacts of Biden’s actions were far more concrete.

“Killing 10,000 jobs and taking $2.2 billion in payroll out of workers’ pockets is not what Americans need or want right now,” Andy Black, President and CEO of the Association of Oil Pipelines, said at the time.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) called Biden’s decision “both insulting and disappointing to the thousands of hard-working members who will lose good-paying, middle-class family-supporting jobs.

“By blocking this 100 percent union project, and pandering to environmental extremists, a thousand union jobs will immediately vanish and 10,000 additional jobs will be foregone,” the group added.

That was a year ago. How does the decision to end the Keystone pipeline look today?

First, there are the immediate economic impacts. Six months after Biden’s decision, TC Energy pulled the plug on the pipeline, which would have shipped 500,000 barrels a day from Western Canada into the U.S. refining system. Given America’s annual production of 16.5 million barrels a day in 2020, that was not a major loss at the time.

But today, domestic energy supplies are strained and global demand is soaring. U.S. allies in Europe are struggling to meet demand in the winter of 2022. Circumstances are very different from the day Biden blocked Keystone.

“Biden’s hurt us,” says H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., Senior Fellow on Environmental Policy for the Illinois-based Heartland Institute. “There’s no question about that.”

Neal Crabtree, a welding foreman from Fouke, Ark., lost his job when Biden pulled the pipeline’s permit. But he says he has bigger concerns than his own paycheck.

“I was worried by the tone being set by the Biden administration,” Crabtree said. “A direct attack on energy in this country seemed to be the president’s highest priority.

“Now we’re seeing rising energy prices. Private companies are reluctant to develop new pipelines because of the outrageous permitting process. Pipelines, just like roads and bridges in this country, are aging. To neglect our pipelines is a dangerous thing. We saw how dependent we are on them when the Colonial Pipeline was shut down last year.”

Dan Kish, Distinguished Senior Fellow for the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Energy Research, agrees. “We saw it as a body blow to American energy security,” he said.

And, some energy experts say, it is not just that Biden blocked a pipeline. He blocked Keystone, a project that went over and above to address issues like carbon emissions, safety standards, and cooperation with indigenous people impacted by the pipeline.

“When Biden shut down Keystone, which really was bending over backward to do everything right from the Democrats’ perspective — and Biden still killed it — that sent a message to the entire industry that it didn’t matter what you did, this administration wanted to shut you down,” said Dan K. Eberhart, CEO of Canary, one of the largest oilfield service companies in the country.

TC Energy had pledged to operate Keystone as a “net-zero emissions level,” the first of its kind commitment in the industry. And operating in Canada meant working under some of the most stringent environmental and safety regulations in the world.

The pipeline managers also had reached agreements with Native Americans as well, entering a $1 billion equity agreement with a group of five Alberta and Saskatchewan First Nations.

“I would say ‘President Biden, I do believe you made a bad decision putting Keystone on the backburner,’” said Saskatchewan First Nation Chief Alvin Francis just days after Biden’s decision. “This could change the outlook of all First Nations in Canada and the US.”

It has certainly changed the mood between Ontario and Washington, D.C. Keystone was in many ways primarily a Canadian project. Biden’s reversal on the pipeline, as well as proposed subsidies for U.S.- made electric vehicles, has heightened tensions between the two allies.

Closing Keystone has not strengthened America’s hand with its potential enemies, either. Biden has been left in the awkward position of lobbying Congress to keep the Nord Stream 2 pipeline open, even as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues threatening a possible invasion of Ukraine. And less oil from Canada and the U.S. on the global market means more demand for products from Russia, Libya, and Venezuela.

“This was a missed opportunity to increase North American energy security, lower costs for American consumers, and reduce dependence on foreign energy sources that are hostile to U.S. interests,” says Frank Macchiarola, Senior Vice President of Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs at American Petroleum Institute (API)

If Biden’s goal was to keep the oil in the ground, it didn’t work. Canadian oil production remained strong throughout 2021 and is expected to hit a new record in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency.

Is it possible Biden would reconsider Keystone XL, having just recently reached out to OPEC to increase production and help bring down gas prices? Burnett says that is unlikely.

“Biden is imposing methane regulations on the industry that the Trump administration decided were not necessary for public health and safety. Biden has agreed to block new natural gas pipelines and new natural gas power stations, so he’s helping create energy shortages in the U.S. and approving pipelines from Russia as opposed to shipping our gas,” Burnett said.

“Biden’s view seems to be ‘Energy is good for the world, but not for the United States,’” he added.

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