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One State, Two Disparate Visions For The Natural Gas Industry

Joe Ulrich

The state House Speaker and other Republican lawmakers announced a slate of bills Monday that are aimed at bolstering Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry.

It’s a mission statement on energy policy—but one that clashes with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s vision for the commonwealth.

In recent weeks, Wolf has been lobbying for a proposal he calls Restore PA, which would use a new tax on natural gas drillers to pay for everything from bridge repair to broadband.

He kicked off his week with a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and released a report that pitched a hundred options for cutting carbon.

But the GOP majority in the House is making it clear, it’s on a different page.

They have named their plan Energize PA. Among other things, the eight bills would make it easier for companies to get environmental permits, encourage development on abandoned industrial sites, and make it cheaper to run natural gas lines to businesses.

Luzerne County Republican Tarah Toohil summed up the objective.

“We want to dust the rust off our part of the Rust Belt,” she said. “Welcome to Pennsylvania, we’re open for business.”

The bills don’t directly raise money or include the infrastructure improvements Wolf’s proposal does, though House Speaker Mike Turzai estimated it might boost tax revenue “to the tune of billions.”

Turzai said the ultimate goal is different: to stimulate the economy.

“Does it stand in stark contrast to Restore PA?” he asked. “Yes, it does. It wasn’t designed to do that, but it has two different visions for Pennsylvania.”

Republicans have long opposed Wolf’s severance tax proposals.

The administration is planning to unveil bills related to his infrastructure plan next month.