Washington County commissioners have never been shy about their diehard, all-in support of the oil and gas industry, even in the face of an endless stream of spills, fish kills and environmental destruction. There is even an ongoing health study regarding a bizarre cluster of cases related to teenagers in our county with Ewing Sarcoma, which many feel is linked to Marcellus shale gas drilling and their radioactive waste.
COMMISSIONER NICK SHERMAN
The latest reminder of this industry loyalty comes in a Letter to the Editor today, from freshman county commissioner Nick Sherman, where he encapsulates his pro-fracking mantra into one sentence, “RGGI [the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative aka ‘Reggie’] will specifically harm the shale industry in Washington County and the commonwealth by taxing natural gas that stays in state and is used to power electric plants.”
HEALTH BENEFITS OF RGGI (source)
Reducing carbon pollution isn’t the only benefit of RGGI. The health benefits of the reduced sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions are significant – up to $6.3 billion by 2030, averaging between $232 million to $525 million per year. Additionally, DEP estimates that through 2030:
CARBON PRICING (PDF)
He’s wrong calling it “taxing” instead of “carbon pricing.” But of course, he’s yet another dyed-in-the-wool legislator working to keep our state in the climate change fast lane, while ignoring the heartbreak and havoc that “business as usual” will cause future generations, both here and across the globe. We’re already seeing the disastrous effects of warmer oceans and superstorms. It’s a huge cost to us all, even in dollars and cents, far beyond the rapidly unfolding human tragedy.
Real world events now run counter to Commissioner Sherman’s campaign promises, “In my professional life, I need to know I’m helping others every day. I feel morally bound to help people. It’s how I was raised and it’s one of the main reasons I’m running for Washington County Commissioner.” Time to help Mother Earth Nick!
SEVERANCE TAX NEEDED
At the state level, the Republican controlled legislature, on the coattails of legislators like Gene Yaw, are also wearing climate change blinders, while taking their pro-fossil-fuel agenda up another notch, doing all they can to kill renewables like solar energy. In the meantime, they continue favoring oil and gas corporations, by failing to place a severance tax on natural gas that’s produced here, unlike every other high-producing state in the U.S. So much of this gas is now exported, the old adage definitely rings true, “Socialize the costs, while privatizing the profits.”
CLEAN AIR & PURE WATER
Meantime, these same legislators are ignoring their oath of office, wrapped inside the Pennsylvania Constitution. They swore an oath for “clean air and pure water” yet they’ve allowed the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection, our first line of defense, to be decimated with job cuts, and remain so, even as production increases. They continue to push legislation to relax environmental regulations, like road spreading of toxic frac waste, favoring the fracking industry over environmental and public health.
Previous commissioners and staff in Washington County have even gone so far as to appear in industry YouTube videos, working to influence the public and commissioners in neighboring Allegheny County, to promote of all things, drilling in public parks! That would be alarming even if it weren’t for two large fracking spills, with a fish kill in Cross Creek Lake, inside their very own Cross Creek County Park. But it’s not theirs, it’s part of our public trust, and they need to start acting like it.
Beyond ignoring the “clean air and pure water” oath they took for citizens of the Commonwealth, these legislators are also now clearly defying a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, by continuing to misappropriate public trust funds, gained through drilling royalties from these public parks. This topic is part of my previous blog, On Deaf Ears. The court declared that “all proceeds from the sale of our public natural resources are part of the corpus of our environmental public trust” and that the environmental trustee obligations described in the state constitution apply to all levels and branches of government.
In the case of our Washington County, Pa. commissioners, $17.8 million dollars has been siphoned-off into the county’s General Fund, instead of being used as intended by the state Constitution for park conservation. This ongoing practice of using public parks as cash cows has to end, we need to focus on far more renewable energy in Pennsylvania, and a long overdue severance tax on the oil and gas industry should be put in place.