Senators: Activists slowing gas pipelines
Heating costs are expected to rise this winter and three state senators placed the blame squarely on environmental activists that are slowing the natural gas industry by blocking the permitting process which allows natural gas to be transported from wells to consumers.
“That extreme left wing is calling for a moratorium on all natural gas industry activities,” said Camera Bartalotta, R-Washington, in her opening statements at a press event Wednesday. Also at the podium at the State Capitol were Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock and John Yudichak, I-Jim Thorpe, along with representatives of trade unions.
“Activists are working day and night to stop the progression on all levels with frivolous lawsuits,” she added.
Bartalotta stated that she was speaking as a “concerned citizen who was sick and tired of watching other lawmakers prioritize partisan politics over the well-being of the residents of this state, our country and our globe.”
According to statistics from the Energy Information Administration cited by Bartalotta, retail energy prices are starting the winter at multi-year highs. Households are projected to see heating bills jump as much as 54% compared to last winter. Propane is up 54%, with heating oil at 43%, followed by natural gas at 30% and electricity at 6%. Nearly half of the nation’s homes are heated by natural gas, Bartalotta said.
“Today, we’re responding to the ill-conceived attacks on this industry and how they are contributing to a devastating global energy crisis,” Bartalotta said.
She said that the greatest threat to the affordable, clean natural gas energy is “not a lack of natural resource, a shortage of capable workers or an unwillingness to adhere to environmental regulations. The real threat comes from lawmakers and environmental extremists who do not understand or appreciate how important the oil and gas industry is in our daily lives.”
Bartalotta stated that permits in the southwestern part of the state which should take as little as 14 days to be processed are now taking anywhere from 100 days to up to 18 to 24 months.
“No one with hundreds of millions of dollars in capital investment is going to wait that long for a return on their investment. They will go elsewhere,” Bartalotta said.
The legislator said that there is no shortage of natural gas; there is only a shortage of accessible natural gas.
Yaw, who was next in line at the podium, said that he agreed with all that Bartalotta had said, but added that he felt it was important that people understand that “fossil fuel permeates every aspect of our life, whether it’s clothes, automobiles, electricity.”
He noted that Pennsylvania has probably the most diverse energy portfolio in the country.
“We have everything. We have nuclear. We have gas. We’ve got geothermal. We have wind. We have solar. Many of my constituents use wood,” he said.
Yaw said it is upsetting when people in the state apologize because of that fact.
“We’re apologizing because we have this huge diverse energy portfolio. We’re sorry about it. We’re a major energy producer in the mid-Atlantic states, but we’re going to join RGGI or whatever we’re going to do whatever to make sure that we no longer the main energy producer,” Yaw said,
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, is a partnership between New England and Mid-Atlantic states designed to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector while generating economic growth.
“Most of these criticisms about apologizing come from people who refuse to acknowledge that fossil fuels are necessary for the existence as we know it,” Yaw said. “As you have heard me say many, many times, you cannot have a clean or green energy project without fossil fuels.”
Yaw, too, emphasized that what is needed right now are pipelines in order to transport natural gas.
“We could do more, but we need pipelines. To benefit from the resources that we have, we need infrastructure; we need more pipeline capacity to get our products to market. We can’t build pipelines, but other states in the Northeast can buy gas from Russia,” he said.
“There’s definitely, in my mind, something wrong with that picture,” he added.
Yaw stated that for many years he has represented a district that is “heavily drilled with a lot of gas production.”
“The target was the drilling operation — it’s bad,” he said. “It’s horrible for the environment. That kind of died; that’s no longer the issue. But the people who want to stop the industry have figured out if we can cut off the arm — the access to market through pipelines — that will get us to where we want to go and that is to destroy the industry.”
“We have every energy potential here in Pennsylvania, but we’re not building the economy,” Yaw said. “We’re not going from energy to the economy we’re just not doing it. We could. I get the feeling we’re curtailing taking that step from energy to economy. There’s many things that we could be doing to help Pennsylvania, that would help with jobs, with trade unions. It would help the average person that buys electricity by keeping their rates low. We’re not doing that.”
“I get the feeling that we’re snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. In a nutshell, I think what Pennsylvania needs is really frustrating to me — we need an attitude adjustment, and maybe it’s up to us as legislators to do that. We need to have an attitude that we are Pennsylvania proud,” he added.