PA Chamber Leads Energy Coalition Letter to Gov. Shapiro, Lawmakers

HARRISBURG – The Stop New Energy Taxes coalition, led by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and comprising prominent industry associations across Pennsylvania, today issued a joint letter to Governor Josh Shapiro and members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, calling for legislative action to ensure a robust and reliable energy supply for the Commonwealth’s businesses and families.

In its letter, the coalition, which represents a diverse array of Pennsylvania’s business and industry sectors, advocated for bipartisan collaboration in crafting innovative and effective public policies to ensure the continued vitality and reliability of the Commonwealth’s energy supply.

Highlighting the absence of calls for new taxes or tax increases in the governor’s recent budget address as a positive sign, the coalition underscored the indispensable role played by Pennsylvania’s energy industry in bolstering the state’s broader economic landscape.

“Pennsylvania is a global energy leader that is home to abundant natural resources, industry thought leaders, and cutting-edge innovators,” the letter reads, emphasizing Pennsylvania’s legacy of energy leadership and its potential for continued growth.

The coalition also expressed confidence in how forward-thinking public policies and robust partnerships between industry and government can sustain and enhance Pennsylvania’s global energy position.

“Through bipartisan cooperation, we have the opportunity to develop and advance policies, such as permitting reform, that promote domestic energy production and its use in legacy and emerging industries,” the letter continues.

“The Commonwealth’s energy success story is still being written, and we all have an opportunity and responsibility to ensure current and future chapters in this story are defined by themes of innovation, global leadership, and economic growth.”

Full text of the letter is available here.

PA Chamber: Commonwealth Court Decision Overturning RGGI a Win for Consumers and An Opportunity for Long-Term Solutions

HARRISBURG  Luke Bernstein, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, issued the following statement in response to today’s Commonwealth Court decision that found former Gov. Tom Wolf’s attempt to enter Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to be unconstitutional:

“We agree with the Commonwealth Court’s conclusion that joining RGGI would result in a tax on energy producers and that only the legislature has the power to tax. We emphasized this point in an amicus brief our organization submitted with several other groups, and we appreciate the Court’s recognition of our concerns.

“We also shared other concerns of business, labor, consumers, and state lawmakers that Pennsylvania’s entrance into RGGI would have threatened to significantly increase energy prices at a time when businesses and families are already facing high prices and the grid operator is raising red flags about the pace of power plant retirements. Policymakers should embrace abundant domestic energy production, facilitate building new infrastructure, support competitive markets, and set long-term policies that encourage innovation and prioritize reliability. This comprehensive approach is congruent with emissions reductions goals, and Pennsylvania – which is second nationally in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions since 2005 – should continue these efforts.

“However, as we noted at the onset and throughout the process, the regulation did not sufficiently protect the state’s electricity and manufacturing sectors, nor did it guard against the potential for significant run-up in electricity or commodity prices. Businesses, whether they generate or consume power, need both affordable energy and long-term certainty.

“We encourage the Governor to let the court’s decision stand and continue working with stakeholders and the General Assembly on policy that leverages our state’s strengths for the benefit of our economy, national security, and the environment.”

Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson Delivers Energy Update

Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15) was the featured speaker during a virtual meeting last Tuesday in which he shared new developments in federal energy policy with PA Chamber members and industry stakeholders.

In his update, Congressman Thompson, who chairs the powerful House Agriculture Committee, underscored energy’s significance in shaping the state’s past, present, and future. He referenced the world’s first- and longest- continuously operating commercial oil wells, both of which are in Pennsylvania’s north-central based 15th District.

Pennsylvania’s energy sector supports more than 420,000 jobs and contributes more than $75 billion to the state economy. In addition to its direct economic impact, Thompson also highlighted the importance of reliable, low-cost energy for heating homes, powering businesses, and generating tax revenue.

Congressman Thompson criticized the Biden administration’s energy policies as a major driver of inflation and cited several pieces of legislation he and his colleagues have advanced to reduce costs for American families and advance domestic energy production, including H.R. 1.

“By utilizing the Commonwealth’s resources, we can create jobs and create opportunities in communities that are suffering under these anti-energy policies,” Thompson said. He also spoke about additional measures aimed at reducing bureaucratic hurdles in approving critical energy projects while maintaining key safety and environmental standards.

Congressman Thompson outlined several updates to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that were recently signed into law as part of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, following negotiations over the federal debt ceiling. Among these reforms, Thompson said, are provisions eliminating burdensome reporting requirements and establishing clearer chains-of-command when multiple federal agencies are involved in the same project.

Thompson’s update also covered topics ranging from hydrogen hubs to rural broadband, emphasizing the need for proactive policies to harness Pennsylvania’s energy resources.

Answering a query from the PA Manufacturer’s Association on the Biden administration’s plans to ban liquid natural gas (LNG) transit by rail, Congressman Thompson voiced concerns about the potential impact such a measure would have on American families, employers, and jobs. He pointed to Congress’ annual appropriations process as a source of leverage against harmful executive branch proposals.


Philly Event Highlights Bipartisan Calls for Permitting Reform

This past Friday, PA Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Alex Halper participated in a panel discussion in Philadelphia focused on permitting reform.

The organization Building a Better America hosted the panel discussion at the Sprinklerfitter’s Local 692 union hall in northeast Philadelphia.  Joining Halper on the panel were State Senator Frank Farry (R-Bucks), State Representative Martina White (R-Philadelphia), UA Local 420 Business Manager Jim Snell, Buckley & Co. CEO Rob Buckley, and Lower Bucks Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joseph Szafran.

Halper emphasized the importance of improving Pennsylvania’s systems of issuing state permits for expansion, development, and other projects and the extent to which permitting reform is a key element in the PA Chamber’s legislative agenda to strengthen the Commonwealth’s competitiveness.  He praised Gov. Shapiro for identifying permitting reform as a priority early in his new administration and urged the Administration to work with lawmakers to build on the Governor’s efforts, specifically by helping to advance reform legislation in Senate Bill 350.

Senator Farry described efforts in the Senate, which passed S.B. 350 this past spring with bipartisan support, and Rep. White highlighted some of the many reasons this issue represents a unique opportunity to support Pennsylvania workers, employers, communities, and our economy. Szafran, who took over as Executive Director of the Lower Bucks Chamber in May, articulated his experience hearing from businesses frustrated over the slow and opaque process of applying for state permits.

The PA Chamber will continue to advocate for meaningful, common-sense permitting reform both in the halls of the state capitol and throughout the Commonwealth.

Chamber officials, lawmakers press for more aggressive permitting reform

by JOHN FINNERTY, Capitolwire

HARRISBURG – State and federal chamber officials joined with lawmakers Tuesday to call for further action to reform permitting processes in the state, arguing that Pennsylvania remains at a competitive disadvantage due to the amount of time it takes businesses to get the state’s OK to begin projects.

State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, said that she has a constituent who moved his business to West Virginia because he’d wanted to expand the facility and he was able to get the new facility built and open in less time in West Virginia then he would get permits to get started in Pennsylvania.

Luke Bernstein, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry said a similar circumstance helped prompt US Steel to decide to open 900-job facility in Arkansas instead of Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania needs to be more competitive,” Bernstein said.

They were part of a call with reporters Tuesday that also involved representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor groups.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, made permitting reform one of his first priorities after taking office earlier this year. That order dictated that agencies set deadlines in which they will provide permits or the applicants will be refunded their application fee. Earlier this month, the governor’s office announced that as part of the administration’s efforts to improve the state government’s online services, the Department of Environmental Protection is working to shift more permit applications online.

“Currently, only 3% of DEP applications and permitting licenses are submitted online,” according to an Aug. 15 press release from the governor’s office.

Bernstein said that the administration’s efforts haven’t gone far enough.

“People don’t want their money back, they want their permit,” he said, adding that the state suffers from a “dysfunctional and unpredictable permitting process.”

Bernstein said the state needs the kind of reforms spelled out in Senate Bill 350, which passed the state Senate in May, but has yet to move in the state House.

Among the reforms included in that legislation would be a provision requiring agencies to create online systems for applicants to track the status of their permit applications.

Bernstein noted that people who order pizza online can track the progress of their dinner but permit applicants don’t get the same kind of service from the state government.

Senate Bill 350 also includes provisions that would require state agencies to notify applicants within 10 days if their permit application is incomplete and to notify applicants within 20 days if there is a technical deficiency in the application.

Permitting reform critical in cementing PA’s energy leadership

Note: This editorial originally appeared in Broad + Liberty.

World energy markets remain in turmoil as Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine invited sanctions and a long-needed rethink of global energy policy. Markets around the world have strongly signaled they are willing to pay a premium for American energy, having seen how Putin has used proceeds from Russian oil and gas to help fuel his invasion.

Pennsylvania is awash with enough energy resources to meet this demand, while keeping prices lower for consumers domestically – we just need the infrastructure to deliver it and the regulatory environment to build.

Our state has huge reserves of natural gas and coal, not to mention decades of knowledge and supply chain in the nuclear, grid management, and renewables spaces. Most importantly, we have a skilled and ready workforce that is ready to get to work to deliver energy safely to homes and businesses and to move it overseas to growing economies that want to trade with free market democracies like the United States.

How will we do it? It will take expanding Pennsylvania’s ability to move gas to market, including through an export facility in the southeastern part of the state. Such a project would mean tens of thousands of man-hours for good-paying jobs in the skilled trades, while helping to grow the economy and providing cleaner, American-made energy to our allies.

A study is currently underway to examine how Pennsylvania could become a leading player in the global energy marketplace by exporting liquid natural gas (LNG). The Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force, a bipartisan coalition comprised of public officials, industry leaders, and building and trades representatives, is conducting a series of hearings to develop a report on the subject, which is expected later this year.

Building an LNG export facility would not only create jobs in the skilled trades; its establishment would also support permanent employment opportunities throughout the entire greater Philadelphia region.

Research demonstrates that every direct job in the natural gas and oil industry generates at least three and a half additional jobs in Pennsylvania. Beyond these workforce opportunities, revenues generated from natural gas exports can also help contribute to the wellbeing of the regional economy.

To make an LNG export terminal a reality, however, we need comprehensive permitting reform.

By one estimate, it takes an average of 4.5 years for energy infrastructure projects to undergo environmental reviews. This process can delay critical projects – like the Mountain Valley Pipeline proposed in Appalachia – and force others to be canceled entirely. When this happens, potential benefits for local economies (like job creation and economic development) go unrealized.

Reforming our state and federal permitting processes is essential for producing and supplying all sources of energy and making progress on emissions reduction.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle in Washington and Harrisburg have recognized that addressing the challenges of fighting climate change while ensuring abundant, affordable energy will only happen when policy promotes innovation and building new projects in the United States. The non-partisan policy think tank Common Good estimates permitting delays on energy projects cost the nation trillions in public health costs, and the Property and Environment Research Center has pointed to slow federal reviews of forest management as a contributor to wildfires plaguing the Mountain West.

The Port of Philadelphia is the most efficient facility of its kind in the nation, and it is a key infrastructure asset to the state’s quality of life and economic climate. Expanding shipments of goods and energy, including through an LNG terminal in southeastern Pennsylvania will be a boon for workers, consumers, businesses, and families, here and abroad.

As bad actors continue to disrupt global energy markets, Pennsylvania can be a leading state among nations in exporting cleaner oil and gas – and in the process, strengthening national security for America and our allies.

Jon Anzur is the Vice President of Public Affairs at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.