Lieutenant governor candidate pushes for pause in drilling

No more new natural gas drilling – that’s what Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski said he would advocate if he wins the Democratic bid for lieutenant governor. He spoke Tuesday evening at the Young Democrats’ meeting at the Genetti Hotel.

As that position is part of the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, “I wouldn’t want to see any more wells drilled right now,” Koplinski said to a group of more than 20. “We need to see what’s in the fracking fluid, we need more regulations and a severance tax. … We don’t get our water back, folks.”

However, Cogan Station resident Pat Foote said while she would love to see fracking stopped, that’s not a realistic goal, citing the need for taxes and regulations above cessation.

“We can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” Foote said.

Koplinski clarified he would want to keep the active wells active while stepping back from drilling new ones, and is against opening public lands to gas exploration.

The gas companies “come in, hurt the roads, the environment … and leave us holding the bag,” Koplinski said.

Regarding education, the first rule is to not cut this building block of society, he said. Further, he advocates a state system of community schools and increasing vocational-technical high school education.

Ken Sarch, retired professor of music at Mansfield University – one of 14 state schools – said with state budget cuts, 1/4 of faculty at the school has been cut.

“We’re trying to keep a level of learning up, but it doesn’t work that way … And when babyboomers retire, they’re not getting replaced,” Sarch said.

He had been on the retrenchment list for two agonizing months, afraid of the orchestra program’s fate, until he was taken off it. Meanwhile, the theatre program was cut.

“If the governor had supported higher education, this wouldn’t be happening,” Sarch said.

Koplinski said the campaign is not one of right and left, but of right and wrong, saying Gov. Tom Corbett has done wrong by Pennsylvanians regarding minimum wage, unions, gas drilling, education and rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders, as well as other issues.

As lieutenant governor, Koplinski would be head of the local government advisory committee and would seek to build better relationships with municipalities, he said.

“I want to turn (this position) into a conduit to municipalities,” he said.

As he previously worked for the Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Chief Counsel, he said he understands the phrase on that building, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” However, he said there’s too much reliance on the property tax.

At the time he was elected councilman in 2007, Harrisburg had a $350 million debt due to a “botched incinerator job,” and Koplinski said he fought the Corbett administration’s ban on municipal bankruptcy and the installation of a receiver for the city.

Koplinski also worked at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division; as a policy analyst for the Department of the Auditor General; as controller for the 2008 Obama-Biden Pennsylvania campaign; state political director for former Sen. Arlen Specter; and Central Pennsylvania political director for former Sen. Hillary Clinton.