#PAGov: Tom Corbett Kept All His Promises and Now PA is Dead Last in Job Growth

Tom Corbett keeps saying that he’s kept all his campaign promises, and that’s true. But when we look at the results of those promises, that’s actually devastating to Corbett’s case for reelection.

The story of the last four years is that the Republican coalition of rural and exurban voters did what they always do when voters let them put on the big boy pants: they went totally apeshit on Pennsylvania’s largest economies in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – the urban areas where Democrats live – they gave away the store to natural gas companies and other extractive industries, lavished untold millions in tax credits, direct subsidies, and deregulatory grift upon favored businesses in the state’s emptiest areas, and the results were predictably horrible.

The state’s bond rating keeps getting worse, revenue collections are coming in under projections because of totally transparent budget gimmickery and $1.2 billion in business tax cuts, and now we learn that the state has fallen to dead last in job growth in the entire nation. Republicans somehow managed to piss off parents in wealthy places like Lower Merion Township with their school budget cuts, and the resulting property tax increases. PA Republicans managed to be less successful somehow even than Sam Brownback in Kansas.

So yes, Corbett is totally right – he kept his promises, and this is what we got. If you think the results are good, you should definitely vote for him again.

Via Keystone Research Center:

Pennsylvania’s rank for percent job growth since January 2011 has fallen to last place among states, based on employment data for September 2014 released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In September, Pennsylvania lost 9,600 jobs while the state’s unemployment rate fell from one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.7% (view the fact sheet).

The Keystone Research Center’s Aug. 28 report The State of Working Pennsylvania 2014 documented that the commonwealth’s economic recovery has taken longer and been more painful than necessary because of misguided state and national policies.  “Today’s numbers drive home emphatically that you can’t cut your way to prosperity,” said Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of Keystone Research Center. “We were ranked in the top 10 for job growth in 2010. Then tens of thousands of layoffs in education, and the state’s postponed investment in infrastructure and delayed acceptance of Medicaid expansion dollars delivered a body blow to Pennsylvania’s recovery, the effects of which are still being felt.  In recession and recovery, Pennsylvania needs a balanced, creative policy and state budget approach that fuels the state’s economic engine, not an unbalanced one that slams on the brakes.”

Posted in Economy, Elections, Governor, Issues

#PAGov: Corbett Spreading the Grift Around Ahead of Epic Electoral Flame-out

More like the Electoral Growth Initiative – he wishes!

In the weeks before Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial election, incumbent Gov. Corbett is scattering millions in taxpayer dollars to big businesses through his Economic Growth Initiative, a downsized version of the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) that enriched developers under Gov. Ed Rendell.

Corbett gave $3.5 million Tuesday to help the developer of a new U.S. headquarters for the French-owned building-materials maker Saint-Gobain S.A. renovate a long-vacant office center in East Whiteland Township. Corbett says these taxpayer dollars will be “supporting 2,600 good-paying jobs,” including temporary and secondary service jobs.

As I reported in April, St-Gobain is moving 680 people to the site when it vacates locations in King of Prussia and Blue Bell, and might add 100 over the next five years.

(via Joe DiStefano)

Posted in Miscellany

Why You Have to Vote in the Midterms

Jonathan Tamari explains why the House tea people now representing the moderate Southeast PA ‘burbs won’t ever pay a price at the polls:

While the focus is on November’s races, critical House contests in the Philadelphia region may have been most influenced by low-profile state elections in 2010.

That’s when Republicans stormed to control of state legislatures, just in time to redraw congressional maps and tilt key districts in their favor for a decade, in Pennsylvania and across the country.

The long-term future of those districts, and of the House, may also depend on state-level races that will decide who makes the next maps, in 2020.

Posted in Elections, US House

#PAGov: Post-Gazette Spotlights the Methane Pollution Issue

The excellent Greg Victor at the Post-Gazette reprinted some of my methane post from the other day in his Cutting Edge column:

Center-left environmentalist opinion in this state has generally taken the view that growing natural gas market share can be a force for good, because the big short term impact has been to greatly accelerate doom for the coal industry, which heretofore has been thought to be the biggest greenhouse gas villain.

But a bunch of recent research on this has changed that calculus. It turns out that if we don’t control methane leakage, natural gas extraction is actually worse for the climate than coal. A lot of Democratic politicians are invested in the idea of gas as a “bridge fuel,” and it still can be, but not if we don’t require companies to capture all the methane.

To repeat, we don’t need new technology here. The wait is over: the technology is here, it is affordable, and all that’s left to do is adopt some regulations like Colorado did, making companies use it:

The regulations require companies to install equipment to minimize leakage of toxic gases and to control or capture 95 percent of emissions.

Energy producers would be required to routinely inspect well sites for leaks, as often as once a month, depending on how much oil or gas a well produces. When leaks are discovered, they must be fixed within 15 days.

It occurs to me that the weak natural gas regulations in our Commonwealth may not be just the result of knowing mendacity, corruption, or Tea Party derp (though all these things do factor in.) A more earnest reason may be that politicians do not want to push regulations that the smallest, least-capitalized drillers would be unable to comply with, thus putting them out of business.

As I never tire of pointing out, the Godfather of Fracking, George Mitchell, says the small independent operators are the worst people in this business, and their activities present the greatest danger to the public.

Normally lowering barriers to entry is good progressive public policy in other fields, but not in the case of gas drilling. We really, really do not want to lower barriers to entry for natural resource extraction, because these minor players do not have access to nearly enough money to cover the clean-up costs of a severe blowout.

When we let people play this game who should not play this game, this really amounts to a big public subsidy – a wink and nod that the taxpayers will be on the hook for the “unforeseen” costs of big disasters, which seem to be happening more and more frequently. All the upside goes to the businesses, all the downside for the public.

Posted in Elections, Energy, Environment, Governor, Issues

GOPers Want You to Focus on the One Democrat in the 50+ GOPer Circle Jerk Scandal

Yes, Seamus McCaffrey is a Democrat, yes he was in on the circle jerk porno scandal, but I fear that the sideshow between Ron Castille and McCaffrey has been turned into a purposeful distraction to try to make the masturbation ring seem bipartisan, and take the shame ray off Tom Corbett where it belongs.

In fact the publicly-available list of the known grown-ass men sharing cringey domination fantasy porno vids with each other includes only one Democrat, and the rest are Republican graybeards from Corbett’s AG office like Frank Fina (he of the bungled Sandusky investo) and Kevin Harley (Corbett 2010 comms dude). Let us not lose sight of the very partisan Republican nature of the vigorous masturbation culture that Tom Corbett allowed to flourish under his nose in the AG office.

Posted in Elections, Governor

Nat Gas Can’t Be a Climate “Bridge Fuel” If We Don’t Control Methane

At this point most of the boxes on my policy wishlist for the Tom Wolf administration have been checked off, which is why I’m mainly using the campaign endgame to talk about an issue where I’m still not a happy camper – fracking.

All the attention is on the severance tax, but the most important thing we have to get right about this – and where we need to hear some stronger language from Wolf – is on methane leakage.

Center-left environmentalist opinion in this state has generally taken the view that growing natural gas market share can be a force for good, because the big short term impact has been to greatly accelerate doom for the coal industry, which heretofore has been thought to be the biggest greenhouse gas villain.

But a bunch of recent research on this has changed that calculus. It turns out that if we don’t control methane leakage, natural gas extraction is actually worse for the climate than coal. A lot of Democratic politicians are invested in the idea of gas as a “bridge fuel,” and it still can be, but not if we don’t require companies to capture all the methane.

The technology to capture it exists, and it is affordable. The main missing piece is policy – we have to make all the drillers use it, like Colorado did. But so far Wolf has been giving decidedly weak answers about how we need new to explore new technology development, and is generally punting on the issue.

Luckily this is starting to bubble up to the point where editorial boards and opinion makers, both locally and nationally, are weighing in, and Wolf’s answers are getting a little meatier.

In the final debate Wolf responded to a question about methane from the League of Women Voters, acknowledging the need for new regulations “not just for methane” but also water disposal and other externalities of the drilling process.

That’s great, but what are those? Does he think that Colorado’s law is a good model? If not, how would his administration’s preferred policy differ from that?

If I were Wolf I would probably want to run out the clock and avoid pissing off anybody new before walking away with this election, but the calculus is different for voters and activists, so hopefully we’ll see the chorus of people badgering Wolf about this keep growing louder until we finally get some satisfactory answers.

Posted in Elections, Energy, Environment, Governor, Issues

Chris Abruzzo Should’ve Resigned for Gross Negligence of His Environmental Protection Duties

It’s too bad it took this office porno ring coming to light to get Tom Corbett’s DEP head Chris Abruzzo to resign, and not the much larger scandal of the Corbett administration’s almost criminal negligence and hostility to environmental protection:

Open the paper any day of the week lately and you read something like this:

A Pennsylvania official has admitted that he may have used faulty information to determine that fracking waste was not poisoning the drinking water supply at a man’s property in Washington County, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report.

During his sworn testimony at a trial before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, Department of Environmental Protection water quality specialist Vincent Yantko said that his 2011 investigation of landowner Loren Kiskadden’s contaminated drinking water “did not follow its regulations to determine whether [chemical] leaks had occurred” at a nearby fracking site, the Post reported. Kiskadden is one of three landowners who say they have experienced health problems due to water pollution from the waste pit at the Yeager drilling site, owned by Range Resources Corporation.

There’s also this three-part blockbuster in the Post-Gazette about the Corbett administration’s comically broken system for tracking well site violations:

For example, only two of four violations issued in one of the worst incidents in the Marcellus era — a March 2010 fire and spill at an Atlas Resources well site in Washington County that resulted in an $80,000 fine — appear in the DEP database, making it look like a less serious event.

The incident occurred after more than a year of complaints from the landowner and neighbors about the well site in Hopewell.

The Corbett administration always saw its job as protecting gas drillers from the public, not the other way around, so it’s not clear they’d have done a better job if they devoted more time to fixing stuff like this and less time to jacking off.

Which is why it’s so important that you and all your friends get out and vote a straight Democratic ticket this November.


Posted in Elections, Governor

PA Job Growth Still Sucks, But Tom Corbett’s Favorite State Job Search Site Has Plenty of Porno Jobs

These must be the alleged 250,000 job openings he was talking about. Employers are trying to hire, but people just don’t have the skills or something.

Posted in Elections, Governor

Mid-rise Building in South Bethlehem Drives NIMBYs Insane, But It’s Allowed By-Right

People have been working for decades to turn around Southside Bethlehem and create conditions for reinvestment in the walkable mixed-use areas on 3rd and 4th Streets, and on the Bethlehem Steel brownfield.

This has been the complaint forever – Northside, the white area with a very nice existing Main Street, gets all the public and private investment, while Southside, the more racially diverse area around Lehigh, gets the butt end of everything.

That’s started to change over the last decade, with the Bethlehem Greenway linear park, the skate plaza, facade renovations, safety improvements, and a whole bunch of other small-scale changes tipping Southside into a new equilibrium where people actually do want to invest there.

Developer Dennis Benner is just the first person to take a chance on building new residential and mixed-use capacity there, and that is a direct result of all the work that people have done for years to create (land) value there, and he’s proposed multiple mid-rise mixed-use buildings. He sees the potential for a great walkable urban neighborhood that can support lots of new residents and small businesses, and he’s pursuing exactly the kind of patient capital, long-term investment strategy the area needs.

This is what this whole thing has been leading up to but some people don’t get that, and are whining about the height, which is not even a thing. It’s a 9-story mid-rise building in an area where the new zoning code allows 200-foot buildings by-right. There didn’t even used to be a height limit until 2012! If people didn’t want buildings that size downtown, I would disagree with them regardless, but the time to weigh in on that was back in 2012, not now.

This area is zoned CB (Central Business District) for a reason – it’s one of the two very small areas where the new zoning code allows for some growth without tacking on insane parking requirements. It’s one of two areas in the city where it’s possible to build new and make your money back. People can’t be fighting mid-rise buildings in the tiny areas where the city has budgeted for a little growth.

Luckily the progressive majority on Bethlehem City Council appears to be supportive, and it’s really just a handful of reactionaries on the Historical Commission who don’t understand that projects like this were always going to be the endgame for Southside revitalization efforts.




Posted in Economy, Issues, Land Use

Flashback: Former DEP Head Michael Krancer Defended Fake Fracking Water Treatment Practice That Produces Dangerous Toxins

Susan Phillips at StateImpact previews a new peer-reviewed study from the Environmental Science & Technology journal that says it’s not safe to simply process fracking wastewater through municipal water treatment plants:

A new study shows how treated wastewater from oil and gas operations, when discharged into rivers and streams that travel toward drinking water intakes, can produce dangerous toxins. The research confirms what scientists have been warning about for some time. The high concentrations of salty brine, which flows up from deep underground once a well is fracked, are difficult to remove from the wastewater without the aid of an expensive technique called reverse osmosis or a cheaper method known as thermal distillation. If the wastewater is treated conventionally, which does not remove the bromides, chlorides or iodides, then it can be combined with chlorine at a drinking water facility, and create carcinogens such as bromines and iodines.

This is a good time to remind everyone that this is exactly what the Corbett administration has been letting natural gas companies do, and that Michael Krancer as DEP head not only condoned this, but made a big stink about getting criticized for it. From day one, Krancer sounded indistinguishable from a natural gas industry flack, and he now basically is.

The Corbett administration also thinks radioactive coal ash waste is best treated as municipal garbage.

Posted in Elections, Environment, Governor