With the Democratic primary just three months away, the differences between the Democratic Party candidates for Governor are beginning to emerge. The forums are helping to delineate the priorities and specifics of each. While I believe that there are some good choices in the field, and that any of the Democrats (with the exception of Max Myers and Jo Ellen Litz) will be much better for Pennsylvania, for its people, for its environment, and for the Earth’s climate, than another four years of Governor Corbett, I still support John Hanger for Governor. Other progressive agenda items very much matter to me, too, as I have written before, especially single payer healthcare that Hanger supports, but with this post I go back to the related environmental issues of global warming, energy policy and fracking for shale gas. We live in a deteriorating climate and we are causing the rapid extinction of species, perhaps someday our own. So while I squarely support the progressive agenda across a host of issues, I put the sustainability of our planet for life as the top issue for this election cycle and many more yet to come.
Here is the big deal, even more so than me supporting John Hanger. The governor we have for the next four years will come from either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, so I continue to urge that people get involved and vote Democratic. I cannot be persuaded at this time to enhance the chances of a Corbett victory by voting for the Green Party, much as my own views are in sync with that party’s positions.
Now back to Hanger. I have not heard a compelling argument from anyone in the anti-fracking movement as to why John Hanger cannot make a good governor even though he clearly does not support a general moratorium on shale gas drilling.
I watch as my email and Facebook accounts fill up every day with petitions to protect state parks and forests against fracking, and petitions to outlaw open-aired, plastic-lined and leaky impoundments for fracking waste. Hanger supports both of these positions. If we get him as governor, we get those policies implemented, or at least a champion in the governor’s office who will resist a Republican legislature that wants to give the forests to the frackers and remove protections for the creatures that live within the forests. Not only that, Hanger was there and largely responsible when the moratorium for state forests was enacted. We also get a governor with a comprehensive set of proposals to regulate much more seriously the shale gas industry, something which the other candidates say they will do without providing as many of the specifics as Hanger has done on his website.
Here is another thing to recommend Hanger. Much of the data we use in the anti-fracking movement that concerns environmental violations and determinations of water contamination by shale gas drilling come out of a system that Hanger put in place at DEP. He built up the capacity of DEP to inspect well operations and he wants to build it up even more.
Much of the renewable energy capacity we have in Pennsylvania traces back to Hanger’s efforts. Hanger presided over the writing of Pennsylvania’s Climate Action Plan which he is serious about taking off the shelf and making it happen. He is firmly on record as to significant achievable goals for renewable energy.
In addition, Hanger is seeking most of his financing in small contributions from what he calls a “peoples’ campaign.” Some will scoff at that, but it strikes me as much better than Tom Wolf bankrolling all those slick commercials we are seeing these days. So I am sending him another $100 today. I do that not because I “hope” to see him do good things (as I acted on “hope” when I sent contributions to President Obama who promised to stand up to Big Oil), but because I know he has the skills and experience to accomplish good things on energy and environmental issues and his campaign platform is based on specifics, not hopeful rhetoric.
Hanger has said he will not take campaign contributions from gas companies or energy-industry PACs. He supports public financing and a $5 million limit on spending for the primary portion of the election season. Who else in the Democratic Party field has been as clear on this issue? He will accept limited contributions from personal friends in the energy industry, of which he has made many over his public career. It is hard to fault him for that.
If John Hanger cannot promise to work for a general moratorium, then at least he is taking steps that could build the case against shale gas drilling to the point that the public will demand a moratorium. One way he will do that is by establishing an ombudsman’s office to receive and investigate citizen complaints about gas drilling. To remind my readers as to what an ombudsman is, here is the definition: “An official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authorities.” The ombudsman can take on the DEP leadership and by extension the Governor. Citizens harmed by drilling would have an advocate inside government who could not be ignored.
Have any of the other candidates suggested that they will create a new office for citizen complaints to be received and taken seriously? Correct me if I am wrong, but I have not seen that from anyone else.
Thus today I send the Hanger for Governor Campaign another $100 to go along with the “money-where-my-mouth is” $250 that I sent a while back. That pretty much taps me out on my fixed income for this primary season. If John Hanger succeeds in getting the rank and file of progressive Democrats really involved, he can take it from here without me. Meantime I will wake up every day trying to get the general moratorium on fracking that we need.
 My objection to Max Myers is that he is not forthcoming about where he stands on the progressive social issues of women’s rights, reproductive choice, and marriage equality. He does support a moratorium on fracking, but too much in social progress may have to be given up to get to that one objective; his background suggests a man who has a religious agenda for his politics, and we don’t need that.
 My objection to Jo Ellen Litz is that she is simply not qualified to be governor and not knowledgeable about core progressive issues, as evidenced in her forum performances; she seems a nice lady, a true civic activist, and a person I might like to know, but not a person to take on the office of Governor.