Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. senator filed a resolution in Washington last week seeking to keep a future president from meddling with an emerging industry in the state.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey announced at a news conference in Harrisburg that his proposal, Senate Resolution 411, would declare that it’s the states that have regulatory authority over fracking for natural gas and that the president could not exercise any executive authority to ban fracking without the support of Congress.
The resolution is a response to several Democratic presidential candidates who have expressed their intention to ban fracking – which involves high-pressured liquid injections sent into the ground to break up rocks and soil and allow for a more efficient extraction of natural gas – if they’re elected next year.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, Toomey’s colleague and one of the leading Democratic candidates, pledged two months ago on Twitter that she would ban fracking on her first day in office. That came after U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a fellow Democratic presidential candidate, called on a ban, saying the process is harmful to water supplies and pollutes the air.
Toomey, though, believes a ban would harm Pennsylvania and the thousands of residents who work in the industry.
“I think it’s essential that we begin to push back on some of these ideas that are threatening the prosperity and really the security of Pennsylvanians and Americans,” he said during Friday's news conference.
Toomey said the proposed resolution is not an indication he believes a Democrat will win the election next year. However, he knows that at some point a Democrat will take over in the White House.
He also acknowledged that the resolution, should it pass the Senate, would not likely succeed in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but he believes his measure still has bipartisan support.
The news conference came after Toomey met with representatives of Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry to learn about its latest developments. The state has seen natural gas production rise exponentially over the last decade.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Pennsylvania extracted 22.65 billion cubic feet of natural gas in August 2009. This past August, the amount taken from the ground was 595.67 billion cubic feet.
Pennsylvania now ranks second to Texas in U.S. natural gas production.
“The positive effects of this breakthrough are being felt across the Commonwealth,” said David Taylor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association. “Abundant, affordable, clean-burning natural gas is heating our homes, firing our industrial furnaces and generating electricity for Pennsylvanians well outside the drilling areas.”
Toomey said the resolution isn’t the only piece is energy-related legislation he’s working on in the Senate. He’s also working with U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, to keep governors from “misusing” the Clean Water Act to stall infrastructure projects that would promote domestic production of natural gas. Barrasso serves as the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
For example, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has blocked efforts to build a pipeline in New York that would allow Pennsylvania companies to sell natural gas to New England communities. As a result, Massachusetts communities have been forced to rely on energy imports to meet their needs.
Natural gas companies aren’t asking for a handout or a bailout, Toomey said.
“All we need to do and all the folks that were at the roundtable are asking is that the government not get in the way of this industry,” he added.