Op-ed by State Senator John Yudichak

Recently, a few groups have challenged my record on the environment.  They have raised concerns about two issues – the Clean Power Plan and the new Chapter 78 oil and gas well site regulations.

First, to be clear, I support the goals of the Clean Power Plan.  And, as the public record reflects, I have never voted to diminish the plan.  Currently, I am working with the Wolf administration to ensure this federal climate change initiative is responsibly carried out with little impact on Pennsylvania jobs.

The Clean Power Plan, advanced by the Environmental Protection Agency, was halted by the United States Supreme Court, and as a result, state action on the plan has stalled until the case is resolved.

Second, check the record, as a member of the Environmental Quality Board I supported Governor Wolf’s newly proposed Chapter 78 regulations that will provide the most comprehensive oversight of the oil and gas industry ever implemented in Pennsylvania history.

Some groups, however, believe you cannot be pro-environment and pro-job creation.  On that point, we will have to agree to disagree.

I have the great honor of representing Luzerne and Carbon Counties in the state Senate.  It is a region with a rich heritage of both energy production and a passion for the conservation of our pristine natural resources.  The citizens of northeastern Pennsylvania have proven you can do both.

It is my responsibility, as a public servant, to reflect my constituents who want legislators to work with one another to achieve that important balance between economic development and environmental protection.

My environmental record over the years has been one of consistent support for policies that promote environmental reclamation and conservation without losing sight of the number one priority for most Pennsylvanians – jobs.

Working with groups, like the Earth Conservancy, we have secured more than $40 million to reclaim thousands of acres of mine scarred lands and miles of polluted streams.  On many of those reclaimed sites new industries have grown and created jobs.  Companies, like CVS Caremark located in Hanover Township, have helped us transform our environmentally challenged sites by investing in our economic landscape with the creation of six hundred new jobs in the growing pharmaceutical industry.

Moreover, in the past two decades, I have supported new laws to promote a proper balance between environmental protection and economic development: Growing Greener, H2O PA, the Alternative Fuels Incentive Act, the Alternatives Energy Portfolio Standards Act, the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act, and the Alternative Energy Investment Act.

Collectively, my support of these landmark legislative achievements have made Pennsylvania a leader in renewable energy development, new energy jobs and the advancement of environmental protection.

In Carbon County, we have worked with Con Edison to develop PA Solar Park – Pennsylvania’s largest solar park.  PA Solar Park will ultimately produce enough electricity to fuel three thousand homes and effectively reduce the CO2 emissions of 22,971 barrels of oil.

In Greater Hazleton, we are working with an energy company, the Atlantic Carbon Group, that has invested over $16 million in our region and created nearly one hundred new jobs.  Atlantic Carbon Group is employing 21st century mining techniques to harvest our plentiful anthracite coal resources to support steel manufacturing, water purification and the manufacturing of silicon.

Investing in environmental protection and supporting the development of our energy infrastructure should not be mutually exclusive enterprises.  Building new natural gas plants, modernizing our natural gas infrastructure, while we continue to press for the development of alternative energy sources demonstrates that we can create jobs and protect the environment.

Building consensus, forging common sense solutions and working with Republicans and Democrats may not be popular in some political circles, but it is exactly how I try to best represent the good people of northeastern Pennsylvania.

We can fight climate change.  We can improve our air and water.  We can be responsible stewards of PENN’s woods, and still develop Pennsylvania’s diverse energy resources to create jobs and opportunities all across this great Commonwealth.