Wolf's Plan Won't Restore Pennsylvania

Green Party of Pennsylvania
February 20, 2019
Tim Runkle, [email protected] 
Chris Robinson, 215-843-4256, [email protected]  
PA Green Party: Wolf’s Plan Won’t Restore Pennsylvania
Governor Tom Wolf in his 2019 Budget address released his vision for a spending plan to address the aging infrastructure of Pennsylvania. The Governor’s plan proposes a $4.5 billion investment targeting the health of the Commonwealth, touching issues including stormwater infrastructure, blight, brownfields cleanup and public transit.  However the Green Party of Pennsylvania (GPPA) warns that the Restore Pennsylvania plan comes with strings attached that are tied directly to the shale gas industry by marriage of the severance tax. Simply stated Governor Wolf’s plan won’t restore Pennsylvania, but it will continue to degrade our health and environment.
The plan makes great investments restoring our tired and underfunded state programs. Its reliance on the revenue of an oil and gas tax, however, works in opposition to the actions required to address the climate emergency. According to the research of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have 12 years to address the impending and irreparable harm to our planet caused by the use of fossil fuels.
“The most important takeaway from Wolf's severance tax proposal is that he seems to be completely missing the point when it comes to climate,” says Michael Bagdes-Canning, Cherry Valley Council Member and Butler County Green. “Locking us into a long term catastrophe for short term financial gain is foolhardy.”
Analysis of the budget’s proposed revenue source indicates that the 4.5 billion dollars will be obtained through the purchase of bonds and that a severance tax on natural gas will be required to pay down the bonds over their lifetime. The budget assumes a natural gas market price of less than $3 per cubic feet. The tax would yield approximately $550 million annually. To simplify the math if one ignores the interest on the bonds then the Governor’s plan will require more than 8 years of shale gas production at current levels. Pennsylvania must make plans to reduce its fossil fuel use if the climate emergency is to be averted.
Neal Gale, the 2018 Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania had this to say: “We can no longer allow our state government to favor the profits of the oil and natural gas industry in Pennsylvania over the well-being of our children and everyone else, who remain threatened by the climate crisis, as it worsens throughout this century. We must demand that Governor Wolf realign his priorities and recognize that tying the funding for the Restore Pennsylvania plan to an extracted fossil fuel tax, strengthens the fossil fuel industry’s position in the state, ensuring the continued emissions of state-generated greenhouse gasses, which jeopardize the survivability of the citizens of Pennsylvania and people around the world.”
In another blow to the health of Pennsylvanians, the proposed budget includes a $20.7 million cut in funding for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  While the administration claims this gap will be filled by fees and the federal funding, it is more likely that no relief will be seen by the Commonwealth citizens. Fees require either continued consumption or violation and the recent policy decisions made in the federal government have only cut spending on environmental issues. Further the PA DEP staff presently on the bench remains 500 less than their 2008 contingent. For an administration that oversaw the approval of gas well permits at a rate of over one per hour and miles of new gas infrastructure pipeline, it is clear that Governor Wolf is setting the stage for minimum oversight with a focus on increased revenue.
“Although a severance tax may appear, on its surface, to be penalizing corporations for using our natural resources and potentially harming our environment, such a tax in fact would make us reliant on those corporations for revenue,” says Beth Scroggin, chair of Chester County Green Party and GPPA Secretary. “If a local politician then wanted to run on a platform against the Mariner East 2 pipeline, for example, that politician would be painted as being against raising revenue for rebuilding PA. We should never rely on revenue raised by severance taxes.”
As has been typical for Governor Wolf, the Restore Pennsylvania plan comes with long lasting effects, harmful to human health and the environment, that are wrapped in immediately gratifying policies,” explained Tim Runkle, co-chair of Lancaster County Green Party and treasurer of GPPA. “The Green Party of Pennsylvania will not stand by silently while the Governor weds the future of Pennsylvania with natural gas.”
The Green Party is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. GPPA candidates promote public policy based on the Green Party four pillars: grassroots democracy, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and social justice/equal opportunity.  For further information about GPPA, please visit https://www.gpofpa.org.  Follow GPPA on social media: Facebook, Green Party of Pennsylvania and Twitter, @GreenPartyofPA.
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