From the movie Lincoln: President Lincoln is talking to abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens of PA about the path to the 13th Amendment to end slavery. Stevens is unhappy with the compromises and deal-making that Lincoln is doing.
Thaddeus Stevens: You know that the inner compass that should direct the soul toward justice has ossified in white men and women, north and south, unto utter uselessness through tolerating the evil of slavery.
Abraham Lincoln: A compass, I learned when I was surveying, it’ll… it’ll point you True North from where you’re standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps and deserts and chasms that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp… What’s the use of knowing True North?
Hello to all who have commented on my post endorsing John Hanger for Governor, and also to those who have read it without comment.
I hope I made it clear in the original post that my endorsement of John is more about us than it is about him. (To use a little shorthand for “us,” I mean the movement to end fracking and to halt and reverse climate change resulting from reliance on fossil fuels for most of our energy supply). Yet this endorsement is also about John Hanger. He’s a real person who has stepped into the public square and asked to be sized up. That takes courage. Perhaps especially for one bearing the scars of past battles.
So let me say a little more about why he impresses me more so than other Democratic candidates wanting to be Governor. I ask again that you speak up for the candidate you think to be a better choice than Hanger.
Here is a little thought experiment to start. Put fracking and energy and environment and climate change aside for a moment and think only of the following issues as the ones on which you might judge John and all the candidates. Pretend for a moment that climate change is not the preeminent issue of our times, and that all we care about in this choice for governor are the following issues.
I’ll pose each as a question and answer it regarding Hanger’s positions as best I know from his website and conversations with him.
- Does the candidate support accepting Medicaid from the federal government to provide health care for 700,000 low-income Pennsylvanians? [Yes]
- Does the candidate support a single payer healthcare system for PA? [Yes]
- Does the candidate have a specific plan for improving public education? Is the candidate a staunch defender of public education? [Yes]
- Does the candidate talk specifics of how he or she will create jobs? [Yes]
- Is the candidate a strong supporter of unions? [Yes]
- Does the candidate have a strong position on a woman’s reproductive choice? [Yes]
- Does the candidate defend the rights of the LGBT community? [Yes]
- Does the candidate favor legalization of marijuana for medical uses, to reduce mass incarceration and ameliorate racial discrimination in arrests, and to save money? [Yes]
- Does the candidate favor doing away with the death penalty? [Yes]
Based on this thought experiment that leaves energy and environment aside, by any standard John Hanger would be considered a full-blown progressive (we used to call them, us, “liberals”). If you like progressive issues and candidates, you should at least consider these aspects of John Hanger. We can look at the other candidates and see what they have to say on these issues.
There is probably more agreement than disagreement between the candidates on such issues. Among our movement that intends to end fracking altogether, however, it often seems as though none of the rest of the Hanger platform means anything at all. That is because he does not support a blanket moratorium or ban. That one issue seems to obscure all others.
Now let us take a look at energy, environment and climate change. This is where the real differences emerge in terms of past experience and concrete plans for the future. I set aside the idea of a blanket moratorium, since only Max Myers seems to have said he would support that, but there is no indication yet that he has any realistic chance of doing so. Besides, of all the candidates it may be Max Myers who diverges most from some of the progressive positions noted above with the conservative cultural values that he sincerely holds.
What does John Hanger have to say to recommend his candidacy to voters concerned about clean air, clean water, the environment and climate change? And who else in the field can claim this kind of experience or plans for the futures? Much as our movement rejects the idea that natural gas is a “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy future, still some sort of building of that future is long overdue. As former DCNR Secretary John Quigley put it to me, if we are bridging to a different energy future with gas in the picture for now, then “the bridge needs to be wide and short.” Who has the most specific plans to do that?
Here is what Hanger told me, close to word for word, letting him speak for himself.
“I became Secretary of DEP in September 2008 and found just 88 employees in the oil and gas program. I was able to convince Governor Rendell to allow me to add to the gas oversight staff. When I left there were 210 employees in DEP dedicated to regulating the gas industry. I then told that staff to enforce the rules and they issued 1,200 violations to the gas industry in 2010 alone. I found the law/regulations were inadequate. Simply put, I didn’t like them. So I started a regulatory blitz to pass five new gas drilling regulations–on water withdrawals, disposal of wastewater, buffers, gas well drilling standards and disclosure of drilling chemicals, and the fees charged to the gas industry for a drilling application. When I became Secretary the fee to apply for a drilling permit was a ridiculous $100 and had never been raised after it was set more than 20 years earlier. I raised the application fee to on average more than $3,000 and used all of that money to hire more inspectors and gas regulators. There were many things that I found that I didn’t like at all. And I worked hard to change those that I could in the two years and four months I was there before Corbett arrived and ended real oversight
(In my career) my support for wind, solar, energy efficiency, climate action plan has been much more than talk. Over the last 20 years I have done more, achieved more than any other Pennsylvanian on behalf of renewables and energy efficiency in PA. I have fought for every single wind farm in PA–all 24 of them. I have fought for and helped build every one of the 7,000 solar facilities. I am the guy who made it legal to connect solar and wind to the grid. I am the guy who wrote the AEPS (Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards) that created the credits that were essential to all renewables. I am the guy who got ACT 1 passed that included $100 million for solar. I am the guy who set up the PA Sunshine Program. I am the guy who wrote Act 129, the energy efficiency bill that requires electric utilities to spend $2 billion on energy efficiency. I am the guy who wrote and passed Act 70 that required DEP to write the PA Climate Action Plan, and the guy who wrote that plan with 52 recommendations that would cut PA emissions by 30% by 2020. I am the guy who led the successful effort to pass the $645 million Growing Greener program in 2005. I wrote with John Quigley the moratorium on state forests and have pledged to continue it. Further, I imposed a company-specific, geographic-specific moratorium against Cabot Oil and Gas in 2010 at Dimock that continues in part to this day. I have said that I will again impose company-specific moratoriums, as I did in the Cabot case. My record is exceptional.”
And what does John Hanger propose to do going forward, short of a blanket moratorium? What does he actually propose to do? Here I paraphrase and summarize John’s communications with me, with specific quotes in “quotation marks.” [And if anyone knows these plans or assertions to be false, then speak up here in this space and I will ask John to respond, as I did on the first issue below about campaign contributions.]
- Accept no campaign contributions from the gas industry; instead run a people-funded campaign: “I have not received money from the gas industry and will not get any. I don’t have a specific policy against taking money from any individuals. If there are issues with an individual donation, I will deal with those on a case by case basis. But I will not take gas industry PAC money. I am the only candidate to call for Public Financing of Governor’s races and for spending limits on governor’s races. Money in politics is toxic. My finance reform positions are key for all progressive issues.”
- Hire right away another 105 regulators for DEP, increasing regulatory enforcement.
- Establish much tighter controls over fugitive methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure that make the industry’s climate change impact as bad as coal.
- Continue moratorium in the Delaware River Basin until a comprehensive environmental impact assessment is completed; provide resources to DRBC, and encourage other DRBC governors to do the same, to conduct the assessment.
- Delaware River Basin Commission proposed rules are not sufficient. Advocate that any change in DRBC policy must have the support of four (4) members and not be the result of a 3-2 (and thus more politicized) vote.
- Maintain all current state forest moratoriums.
- Implement a $3 million impact fee, per well, in state forests where fracking may happen because the state does not own the mineral rights, the fee to be used for remediation of damages to the forest. (This alone may stop drilling in these forests.)
- No drilling in the Loyalsock forest.
- Advance a real proposal to keep drilling out of state parks.
- Support with funds at executive disposal, and/or demand funds from the legislature, to conduct a comprehensive public health study in the southwest and north central/northeast areas of Pennsylvania where the drilling has been most concentrated.
- Enact a true and fair severance tax on the gas industry.
- Ban open impoundments pits (they are still legal, in fact they are explicitly allowed).
- Ban all discharges of untreated wastewater into Pennsylvania waterways.
- Continue to impose moratoriums (stop the drilling) on companies and in specific geographic areas where bad behavior and environmental harm occurs.
- Require green completions that include the end of open air flaring.
- Require very best pollution controls; cut emissions by 90% at compressor stations.
- Create a citizens drilling complaint office, an ombudsman to hear the complaints.
- Regarding water test suite codes initiated 15 years ago, these were not meant to conceal information, but that has happened; all information should be made available to residents.
- Require drillers to pay twice the property value of a home at which methane pollutes the water well, even if it methane is remediated.
- Implement the PA Climate Action Plan, doubling energy efficiency, and doubling renewable energy. Get us out of the box of relying on the four traditional energy sources for the 90% of energy they provide now – all of them ugly choices in some ways.
- Increase Pennsylvania’s 24 wind farms and about 1,400 megawatts of wind energy by four (4) times in eight (8) years and increase solar in PA at least ten times from what is currently at about 200 megawatts and 7,000 solar facilities.
- Immediately fire climate-change-denying DEP Secretary Abruzzo along with “Energy Czar” Patrick Henderson, and shut down the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.
Do these proposals address all our movement’s issues? Of course not. There is still the matter of long-term risk of irreparable harm to aquifers under half of Pennsylvania from steel and concrete casings that will inevitably fail and must hold up in perpetuity if they are to keep the aquifers free of contamination from below (a ridiculous assumption). There is still the matter of exporting the gas from Pennsylvania, but on that we need to know how much control the Governor actually has over in interstate and international commerce of “private property.” There are still major pipeline issues, some under state control and some federally regulated. What about the fracked Bakken Shale oil that is rolling on railroads through our state, right through heavily populated areas in Philadelphia, and who knows where else, because CSX does not have to say? What happens if we have a derailment and massive fire on one of these rail lines as has happened four times in the past six months? What about exporting LNG to overseas markets? Is there any way a Governor can make it harder to export natural gas? Will the industry be stripped of its federal exemptions and can the governor of any state take unilateral action on that? Will Hanger convene a climate commission, as Governor Brown of California has done, one comprised of the nation’s top climate scientists (and fracking experts like Dr. Anthony Ingraffea who is studying PA emissions) to consider a complete moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing as a means for extracting oil and natural gas?
More issues abound, but the big question for now, in this primary season, is this: How does John’s experience and his proposals compare with what other candidates have had to say? In my view the other candidates have spoken only in vague generalities about letting the drilling continue but “doing it right,” so what does that tell us about the courage of their convictions and what we can expect from them? How do we avoid being sold a pig in a poke by the others?
Here is my answer.
The gubernatorial election is not a referendum on our movement or on hydraulic fracturing. It is going to happen with or without us. Do we want to pass up a chance to get a great deal of what we want by supporting Hanger? Do we want to know what is inside the slick packaging of the other candidates only after the election is over? How do we make a difference in getting our issues properly considered in this election cycle?
The only way we can see comparisons between John Hanger and the rest of the field on the issues that matter most to us is to insist that we have at least two debates in the Democrat primary cycle, one on each side of the state for maximum participation, focused solely on energy and environment issues. PennEnvironment is convening a “Sustainability Forum” on January 13 in Philadelphia, much of it focused on fracking. Congratulations go to PennEnvironment for making that happen. However, that forum is too inaccessible to the people in western Pennsylvania’s gas fields. So may I suggest that Earth Day 2014 (April 22, 2014) would make a fine day for demanding that every candidate still in the race come to western Pennsylvania to face off specifically and only on the energy, environment and global sustainability issues. The forum could be in Pittsburgh or even nearby Canonsburg, home base of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
It is my view at this point that only John Hanger would welcome such a second debate so close to the primary vote. It is in the best interests of our movement to help make that happen. Otherwise we will see the other candidates run out the clock without having to be responsive to our movement, facing the questions we have here in western Pennsylvania.
Do we have the strength as a movement to demand such a forum? Can we command the attendance of all candidates? Other upcoming forums will cover a range of issues, and we can predict that not enough attention will be given to our issues. We need a focused forum. How do we make it happen?