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Response to Sen.Yaw

In his recently-published Op Ed, state Sen. Gene Yaw attacked a new PennFuture report that shows how Pennsylvanians doled out $3.8 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry in 2019.

It’s no surprise that Sen. Yaw is going to bat for and echoing the talking points of the fracked gas industry: the senator is a vocal opponent of Pennsylvania joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, he recently challenged the Delaware River Basin Commission’s moratorium on fracking in court, and he routinely introduces and champions legislation that favors the oil and gas industry over sustainable alternatives.

Despite these protestations, a simple fact remains: Pennsylvania’s own records show it is one of the largest subsidizers of a dirty industry that has neither earned nor deserves these handouts. We calculated that each Pennsylvanian personally subsidized the industry to the tune of nearly $300 in 2019.

These subsidies for fossil fuels unfairly distort markets to favor a financially and environmentally questionable industry and, worse yet, they often make no sense.

For instance, almost anything you do with your property can lead to higher local tax assessments. Building an extension for a home business, installing solar panels, or even just remodeling your house can all lead to higher tax payments.

In comparison, the gas industry gets a special exemption normally reserved for churches, schools and charities — it’s exempt from local property taxes.

This is just one glaring example of the preferential treatment given to this industry, and tax breaks like this make it harder for better, cleaner technologies to compete. At a time when we need to be transitioning to a clean energy economy to fight the climate crisis, these subsidies do the exact opposite by prolonging our dependence on polluting industries.

We know that the fossil fuel industry has never been a good partner for Pennsylvania. The latest entity to realize this was the Delaware River Basin Commission which recently voted to ban fracking permanently in the basin. In doing so, the agency protected clean water for generations.

It’s time for Sen. Yaw and other elected officials in Harrisburg to cut their losses and come to the same realization.

Jacquelyn Bonomo is president and CEO of PennFuture.

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