Earl Baker: The “curioser and curioser” actions of Josh Shapiro

Yesterday, the Daily Local News released an op-ed written by former two-term Senator and three-term Commissioner of Chester County Earl Baker. Baker analyzes the disingenuous actions of Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, that have wobbled back and forth to please voters across different constituencies.  

After delivering a blow to the Mariner East pipeline in the beginning of October, the Attorney General has snaked in and out of re-litigating the case and altered certain policy viewpoints to appease voters– there is no doubt his actions are politically motivated. The need for Pennsylvania-based energy infrastructure is higher than ever, Shapiro needs to realize that going after the Keystone State’s energy industry is not good politics. Good politics correlates with good policy. 

Read Baker’s piece below: 

Daily Local News

Guest Column: The “Curioser and curioser” actions of Josh Shapiro

One of the timeless sayings from “Alice in Wonderland,” “curiouser and curiouser,” is an apt way to describe the actions of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro these days.

The Democratic front-runner for governor of Pennsylvania is stretching himself in various policy directions depending on which constituencies he wants to please on any given day. Yet while our system of democracy is built on reaching out to voters, it can also present complicated and even delicate strategic challenges for erstwhile candidates, especially in a state as politically diverse as Pennsylvania.

Just take the Attorney General’s recent lawsuit against a developer of the Mariner East pipeline. An initial press conference scheduled for October 4th and canceled at the last minute indicated that there was going to be an announcement regarding a “major environmental crimes case.”Staff from the Attorney General’s office cited “additional information” for the delay and a spokesperson reiterated that “we must do our due diligence and review.” The very next day though, the Attorney General again changed course and ultimately moved forward with the lawsuit.

Why the back and forth? Re-litigating cases that have been previously settled through regulators and fines paid is a highly questionable action and a potential overreach by a government body. There’s no doubt it is politically motivated.

Economically the energy industry has been a boon for the Commonwealth and continued lawsuits against drilling operators and pipeline developers will dissuade investment in Pennsylvania. The energy industry now supports over 320,000 jobs and contributes over $45 billion to the economy of the Commonwealth.

The Mariner East pipeline alone, meanwhile, created over 10,000 jobs and generated $9.1 billion in economic impact during construction. Moving forward, the pipeline, a fractionation facility associated with the project, and improvements at Marcus Hook are expected to produce between $140 million and $210 million of ongoing economic impacts. That is a lot of money to leave on the table to score quick political points.

Meanwhile, the natural gas that is being extracted and transported via pipelines in Pennsylvania has not only benefitted citizens, power generators, and manufacturers domestically, but exports of it are also benefitting our allies overseas who no longer need to rely on Russia or other unfriendly petrol-states to fuel their economies. Exporting this product beyond the Commonwealth and to other states where it is needed is a key foreign policy goal and having the means to move product 350 miles to Marcus Hook where it can be stored, utilized, or exported, is critical.

Politically, the Democratic Party coalition has become a curious mix of diverging interests that Mr. Shapiro will have a hard time managing as a candidate for governor. A position that might please some environmental activists, such as shutting down pipelines, will likely alienate the labor interests of his party — those Pennsylvanians who work in this industry.

The Operating Engineers and other trades unions such as the Laborers, Steamfitters, Boilermakers, have been strong supporters of pipelines in Pennsylvania. This is evidenced by statements from labor leaders such as Tom Melisko, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66 who acknowledged that “Pennsylvania’s energy industry has grown to support real jobs and significant investments – and Mariner East is a big part of that.” Staring down the imminent launch of his campaign and choosing not to alienate a key potential ally before it starts could have been a more prudent path and justified the Attorney General’s hesitation with whether to move forward with this lawsuit. Unfortunately, Shapiro chose to ally himself with the activist far left over hard-working Pennsylvanians.

Josh Shapiro may be indicating his ability, or at least his attempt, to balance such countervailing forces but going after the energy industry in the Keystone State is sure to be a political loser. Oftentimes good policy just makes good political sense as well.

Earl Baker is a former two-term Senator and three-term Commissioner of Chester County. In the Senate, he chaired the Labor and Industry Committee.  He remains active in the Chester County Chamber.