Corbett offers broad-based energy plan
By David Conti
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday went to the heart of Marcellus shale drilling to quietly announce details of a state energy plan.
His “Energy = Jobs” plan, which his office outlined in a 72-page report and at a website connected to the governor's homepage, looks to market the state's energy sectors to investors and business people.
As numerous Democrats clamor to take on Corbett in the November election, the Republican governor's plan touts the state's place as a big producer of natural gas, coal, nuclear power and renewable energy, and expresses support for all of those sectors.
“Whether from the well pad to the corner grocery store, the expansion of our energy sector has made Pennsylvanians better off and made our commonwealth really the vanguard of American energy independence,” he told a small audience at Pennsylvania College of Technology's Earth Science Center in Lycoming County. The county was among the leaders in new unconventional drilling permits last year, his report said. Shale drilling over the past decade made Pennsylvania the country's second-largest producer of natural gas.
The report says his “all-of-the-above” policy is guided by embracing free markets to allow customers to choose their energy sources, promoting the state's diverse energy portfolio, pushing industries to use cheap energy produced here and protecting the environment. It calls for supporting new technology that reduces emissions from coal-fired plants, making natural-gas vehicles more commonplace and backing the redevelopment of refineries for the natural gas industry.
A critic said the policy misses a chance to seize on the high-growth natural gas industry that took hold in shale-rich areas from the southwestern to northeastern corners of the state.
“A policy that embraces the status quo doesn't get us there,” said John Quigley, a former state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary. He said a good policy would promote building an infrastructure around renewable energy sources — wind, solar and water — backed by natural gas-fired power plants that can back up the grid with fewer emissions than coal.
“He tries to appease everybody,” Quigley said. “We need policy and leadership to take advantage of opportunities in front of Pennsylvania.”
One industry leader was quick to support the plan. The Pennsylvania Coal Alliance said the policy makes good business sense.
“It acknowledges the direct link between Pennsylvania energy and economic opportunity,” said alliance CEO John Pippy. “It benefits the commercial base and individual employees.”
Pippy said Corbett's free-market approach would allow all the energy sectors to succeed without heavy regulations such as a federal rule to limit emissions from coal-fired plants. That rule, he and other industry leaders say, will make it impossible to generate electricity from coal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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