Pennsylvania Lawmaker Urges New Jersey and New York to End Pipeline-Construction Bans

Pennsylvania State Representative Stan Saylor (R-Red Lion) announced Monday he’ll introduce a resolution exhorting New Jersey and New York’s respective governors to allow construction of natural-gas conduits.

In 2014, Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s predecessor Andrew Cuomo (D) banned hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) for natural-gas extraction and thenceforth barred the creation of new natural-gas pipelines. Last month, Hochul endorsed a statewide prohibition of gas power for new buildings, the first such state-level interdiction in the U.S. 

Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) has also refused to permit new natural-gas pipelines. In September, he killed construction of the 120-mile PennEast pipeline from Luzerne County, PA, to Mercer County, NJ. Like Hochul, he wants to see attrition in the use of the fossil fuel, aiming to almost totally discontinue its use by 2015.

Saylor believes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should lead these governors to rethink their position. In a memorandum seeking co-sponsors for his resolution, he expressed revulsion toward Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime for launching its attack. He said he is “equally appalled” that many U.S. energy policymakers are pursuing an anti-domestic-fossil-fuel agenda that “help[s] to fund Putin’s war” and leaves Americans economically vulnerable as Russian energy imports become more expensive. 

Currently, the U.S. imports about 800,000 barrels of Russian oil per day. Saylor observed that more Russian petroleum will flow to northeastern states that would have received more Pennsylvania natural gas if the PennEast pipeline and the formerly planned Pennsylvania-to-New-York Northern Access and Constitution channels were built. 

“Not only have anti-energy policies from President Joe Biden down to blue-state governors resulted in increased costs to consumers, but they mean that we as a country are helping to finance Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine through oil and natural gas imports,” the representative said in a statement. “It’s unconscionable and outright shameful.”

Saylor is also imploring Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) to appeal to his neighboring fellow Democratic governors and ask them to end their hostility to natural gas. While Wolf has followed the progressive line on most environmental issues, including prohibiting fracking in the Delaware River Basin and other publicly owned spaces, he has not opposed all fossil-fuel development. 

Saylor’s resolution is one of several pieces of legislation, energy-related and otherwise, that Keystone-State lawmakers have announced over the last few days in response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Also on Monday, State Representative Seth Grove (R-York) said he will soon introduce the “End Russian Aggression Act,” whose main component will be expansion of natural-gas exploration in Pennsylvania. Grove’s bill would moreover end the commonwealth’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—a multi-state effort to encourage the development and use of renewable energy—and fund gas-pipeline development.

Late last week, state Senators Wayne Langerholc (R-Clearfield), Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) and Gene Yaw (R-Williamsport) proposed a resolution backing reopening of the Keystone XL pipeline, which they say has become all the more necessary in recent days. A 1,179-mile conduit from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, Keystone XL would have transferred 830,000 barrels of oil per day. President Donald Trump granted the project a presidential permit in March 2019 but Joe Biden canceled it on his first day in the White House 21 months later.

On Friday, the senators’ effort to urge Biden to restart the pipeline became bipartisan as Representative Frank Burns (D-Portage) introduced a version of their resolution in the state House of Representatives. In his memo to colleagues asking them to co-sponsor his measure, Burns noted that oil prices rose above $100 per barrel last week.

Among other measures proposed in reaction to Russia’s invasion of its neighbor is a bill by Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Bellefonte) to divest the state of any Russian economic assets. A related divestment measure by Representatives Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie), Robert Matzie (D-Ambridge) and Pam Snyder (D-Carmichaels) was introduced last week. 

Meanwhile, in the other chamber, Senator David Argall (R-Mahanoy City) has sought support for a resolution encouraging Congress to embargo all Russian petroleum imports, designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, deem Putin a war criminal, and augment NATO reinforcements in the Baltic states.

Earlier last week, State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) proposed a general resolution condemning Russia’s assault on Ukraine. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to bra[email protected].
Photo “Stan Saylor” by Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus. CC BY 3.0. Background Photo “Oil and Gas Pipeline” by Forest Guardians. CC BY-SA 3.0.

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