Prove your humanity

Lawmakers in the state House are advancing a slate of bills aimed at boosting the natural gas industry under the claim of energy security.

Supporters repeatedly brought up the energy situation in Europe caused by Russia’s war with Ukraine, though many of the issues the bills would address have lingered in the legislature for years.

The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee passed legislation Monday to allow more gas drilling in state forests, explore a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Philadelphia, and urge leaders of other states to allow new pipelines to carry Pennsylvania gas into their states.

One bill would prohibit a regional oversight commission from making policy that would hinder gas development in the Delaware River Basin – a response to an earlier decision from that body to ban fracking in the watershed.

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Rep. Joshua Kail (R-Beaver) said the country should reduce any dependence on foreign fuels and manufacturing. He said bad energy policy has serious consequences – like what he says has played out in Ukraine over the last several weeks.

“Vladimir Putin can’t attack Ukraine without his war machine, he can’t fund his war machine without high gas prices, he doesn’t have high gas prices without bad energy policy,” Kail said.

Opponents argue the state shouldn’t use the situation in Europe as an excuse to ignore the climate crisis.

“This resolution makes reference to the Ukraine crisis, which will end at some point, but the climate crisis will not end, has not ended, will continue,” said Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware).

Scientists say there is limited time left to cut emissions to a point that will keep global warming below catastrophic levels. Pennsylvania expects to see more intense storms and more frequent flash floods as the climate changes.

The committee also passed a Senate bill that would keep the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program that aims to reduce emissions from power plants.

The regulation has been tied up in a legal fight.

The committee-passed legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.

Climate change and Pennsylvania

There’s overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity is warming Earth at an unprecedented rate. It’s already responsible for extreme weather, rising sea levels, and more severe droughts worldwide. Pennsylvania is on track for more intense heat waves and stronger storms in coming years, the Department of Environmental Protection says. Scientists stress that rapid action is crucial to avoid the worst effects. Pa.’s most recent Climate Action Plan calls for an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. Doing that will require hard choices by the nation’s fourth-largest carbon emitter: Pennsylvania must figure out how to cut emissions while planning for the future of people and communities that rely on the fossil fuel industry. —Madison Goldberg, StateImpact Pennsylvania

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.