State Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford) wants the Keystone State to embrace its energy-based economy by creating an Independent Energy Office (IEO) and rejecting anti-fossil-fuel investment policies.

Yaw announced his proposal for an energy policy office last week, saying the IEO would be “modeled after Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), which was created by Act 120 of 2010, and Act 100 of 2016. And, he said, the word “independent” is key.

“The IFO does not support or oppose any policy it analyzes, and discloses the methodologies, data sources, and assumptions used in published reports and estimates,” Yaw noted.

Yaw’s plan comes as energy policy is again at the center of partisan, political debate. At the state level, Yaw’s Democratic colleagues on the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, including Minority Chair Carolyn Comitta (West Chester) and Katie Muth (Chester/Montgomery) oppose expanded fossil fuel production.

At the national level, President Joe Biden is weighing whether to approve ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project in Alaska, which would generate $17 billion in federal revenue and up to 180,000 barrels of a day of domestic oil.

As a candidate for president, Biden pledged to Democratic primary voters, “I guarantee you we are going to end fossil fuel.” After taking office, he overrode previous environmental approvals and blocked the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline. But with sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine still impacting global energy markets, observers said it is possible Biden may approve the Willow Project, described by green opponents as a “carbon bomb.”

Yaw said fossil fuels can be developed in Pennsylvania responsibly.

“I believe most Republicans and Democrats in the Pennsylvania legislature agree that we can advance policies that promote energy development and protect our environment simultaneously,” Yaw said. “They are not mutually exclusive.”

Pennsylvania can capitalize on its energy wealth and create prosperity for its citizens, Yaw insisted. “But we must first stop apologizing for it.”

“I believe an Independent Energy Office can provide impartial, timely, and data-driven analysis to guide our state in determining and meeting future energy needs.”

Pennsylvania is the second-largest natural gas producer after Texas and second only to West Virginia in terms of coal exports. And at a time when more environmentalists are promoting nuclear power as a way to reduce emissions and combat climate change, Pennsylvania is second in the nation after Illinois in electricity generation from nuclear.

Yaw’s approach faces opposition from advocates of Environmental Social Governance (ESG) policies, whose goal is to restrict the flow of investment dollars to the fossil fuel industry.

The Biden administration pushed through a new rule allowing managers of retirement funds to take ESG considerations into account when handling retirees’ money, rather than the existing mandate to put “fiduciary” goals first.

A bipartisan majority in the House voted to reject Biden’s rule change, 216-204. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester) joined Bucks County Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in the bipartisan majority. Reps. Madeleine Dean (Montgomery) and Mary Gay Scanlon (Delaware) were part of the all-Democrat minority supporting Biden’s new policy.

The Senate also passed the resolution came before the U.S. Senate. Once again, there was a bipartisan vote (50-46) rejecting the rule change. But Sen Bob Casey (D-Pa.) stuck with the partisan minority. (Sen. John Fetterman is being treated for depression and was not on hand to cast a vote.)

Yaw’s proposal has the backing of leading employers in the energy and manufacturing sectors. 

“Without question, Pennsylvania has prospered from a strong energy sector and increased natural gas development,” an American Petroleum Institute spokesperson told DVJournal. “Our vast energy resources deserve impartial, data-driven analysis to guide lawmakers in developing policies that support the production of affordable, reliable natural gas in Pennsylvania.” 

David N. Taylor, President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association said Senator Yaw’s concept is very promising and hopes legislators and the governors embrace the approach.

“To power our industry, lower utility bills for consumers, and sustain our ever-rising quality of life, Pennsylvania needs to maximize domestic energy production from all sources under market conditions,” said Taylor. “We believe state government could help drive an all-of-the-above effort for Pennsylvania energy that would benefit all of our citizens and make our economy one of the best-performing in America.”