McGinty Outlines Jobs Plan Balancing Energy Development & Environmental Protection

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty today outlined her jobs plan to grow Pennsylvania’s economy by making Pennsylvania a leader in natural gas and clean and efficient energy development, while protecting the environment.

McGinty “I believe it’s Pennsylvania’s time to shine,” McGinty said. “We have an historic economic opportunity to develop Pennsylvania’s abundant supply of natural gas while protecting the environment. But it would be shortsighted to have an energy policy that focused exclusively on a single resource.”

McGinty, who was head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under Governor Ed Rendell and served as Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality under President Clinton, outlined her plan before the Lehigh Valley Chamber Energy and Environment Conference.

“It’s time to make Pennsylvania the hotbed of energy innovation, where we can build a new industrial cluster to satisfy the world’s need for cleaner and more efficient energy,” McGinty said. “If we do this, we will grow Pennsylvania’s economy, create good-paying jobs, and improve the lives of hard-working families.”

Here are the full details of McGinty’s plan:

Develop Pennsylvania Natural Gas—With Strong Environmental Safeguards

As long as natural gas development is subject to tough regulations that protect the environment, McGinty believes natural gas development can help power new industries, lead to a renaissance in manufacturing, and create good-paying jobs for Pennsylvanians.

McGinty believes Pennsylvania should be a leader in attracting life sciences, chemical and pharmaceutical companies that use natural gas as a feedstock in addition to being an energy source.

“With strong regulatory safeguards, abundant and affordable natural gas from the Marcellus shale not only can put Pennsylvanians back to work, but it also can help Pennsylvania attract new manufacturing, life sciences, and pharmaceutical companies,” McGinty said.

In her speech, McGinty called for a “reasonable severance tax” on shale development just as the industry pays in West Virginia and in other states. “A reasonable severance tax would provide hundreds of millions of additional revenue needed for our state, especially for our schools,” McGinty said.

To create jobs and economic growth by developing the Marcellus shale, while protecting the environment, McGinty proposed the following:

  • Expanded job training so shale development jobs go to Pennsylvanians, not Texans or Oklahomans. McGinty referred to recent industry data that showed Pennsylvania’s share of Marcellus shale jobs has dropped significantly, from 72 percent of new hires in 2011 to 57 percent in 2012. “Pennsylvania needs to do more to ensure that Pennsylvanians are trained and hired to work on shale development,” McGinty said.
  • Use state government financing programs to give priority to industries that use natural gas and gas byproducts to expand their operations in Pennsylvania.
  • Make the Pennsylvania Turnpike a “Green Highway” with refueling stations for natural gas and electric vehicles.
  • Convert centrally refueled state vehicles to natural gas to create more demand, save money, and reduce pollution.
  • Implement best practices to minimize the environmental footprint associated with gas development, including but not limited to: develop and enforce appropriate casing and cementing practices in well development to guard against methane migration; full disclosure of fracking fluids; requiring “green completion” of gas wells to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from well development; continue the push for zero net water consumption; ensure proper handling, treatment, and disposal of produced and flowback water; ensure adequate setbacks and buffers around streams.
  • Noting that  enforcement actions have fallen by 50 percent over the last three years, even as well activity has significantly increased, McGinty underscored that the environmental cop has to be on the beat in sufficient numbers and with sufficient skill to keep pace with industry development.
  • Not allow drilling in state parks; continue moratorium on leasing on state forest lands.
  • Repeal the gag rule, which prevents doctors from sharing critical medical information about patients who are exposed to chemicals from gas drilling.
  • Allow communities to impose reasonable zoning requirements to protect schools, places of worship, fragile natural areas, and other special places just as these communities have done with other types of industrial activity.

Make Pennsylvania A Leader in Clean Energy Research and Development

“Pennsylvania can and should be a world leader in developing clean and efficient energy. With our world-class universities, a top–notch work force, and unparalleled natural resources, Pennsylvania should be leading the way in developing clean efficient energy that is less costly to consumers and businesses. As governor, I will lead that effort,” said McGinty, who at DEP attracted clean energy companies to Pennsylvania, generated a billion dollars in new investment, and created thousands of jobs.

To grow Pennsylvania’s economy by developing clean efficient energy that makes energy less costly to consumers and businesses, McGinty proposed the following:

  • Expand the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) to require utilities to include renewable, alternative, and advanced energy sources in their portfolios. Enacted when McGinty was head of DEP, the AEPS has spurred investment, generated jobs, and gave a  boost to local economies. For example, under McGinty’s leadership at DEP, Pennsylvania became a national leader in creating wind and solar jobs. She led a campaign to lure the Spanish wind-energy company Gamesa to Pennsylvania, beating out other states. Gamesa has invested more than $200 million in Pennsylvania, employed hundreds and built a local supply base.
  • Expand Act 129, the successful conservation law in Pennsylvania that has saved consumers hundreds of millions of dollars and created hundreds of jobs. Developed by McGinty while DEP Secretary and passed by the legislature, Act 129 is estimated to have cut electricity bills by nearly $300 million per year while spurring the creation of up to 600 full-time jobs in energy engineering, contracting and installment.
  • Boost the competitiveness of Pennsylvania’s manufacturers by putting industrial waste heat and power to work at the plant in combined heat and power systems.
  • Recognize that the electric grid is a vital part of our core infrastructure that needs to be upgraded. Support investments to ensure grid reliability and integrity.
  • Lighten the load on the grid and empower consumers through distributed generation, microgrids, and smart power systems.

About Jake Sternberger

Jake Sternberger was a contributing writer at Keystone Politics from 2011 to 2014.
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