For years, Governor Tom Wolf has been stonewalled by a Republican-controlled legislature. But instead of working to champion causes that will empower progressives and protect working people, Wolf has reacted to Republican intransigence by aligning himself more with his opposition than with his base.
This June, Wolf caved to Republican demands rather than fighting alongside Democrats in the legislature. The governor signed into law a bill that will make it easier for guns to get into Pennsylvania’s schools, and he signed a budget that cuts environmental protection funds and vital social safety net programs.
But Wolf’s most cynical move may be his Restore Pennsylvania plan. This program aims to raise $4.5 billion in bonds over 20 years to fund a variety of projects that could include new fossil fuel infrastructure. The loans would be paid back by a tax on fracking.
There are three big problems with Restore PA:
Restore Creates New Fossil Fuel Subsidies
When he unveiled the plan, Governor Wolf made it clear that he would like to use Restore to create a new set of fossil fuel subsidies, steering money towards the dirty petrochemical and fossil fuel industries. The fracking boom, as his administration sees it, is an opportunity to drive more fracking and generate more plastic pollution.
Specific aspects of Restore, such as the ‘Business in Our Sites’ program, funds the creation of “shovel-ready” sites, which could be steer money towards preparing land for new petrochemical or fossil fuel facilities, such as new ethane crackers. And the Natural Gas Infrastructure Development Fund would provide support for pipelines to carry fracked gas. Perversely, this is listed in Restore PA’s “energy efficiency” category.
Restore Locks Pennsylvania into 20 Years of Fracking
Under Wolf’s plan, the state would have a financial interest in promoting more fracking for decades to come. This is exactly the wrong vision for our future.
With Restore, Wolf essentially ensures Pennsylvania will be financially and legally obliged to continue fracking until 2040, far beyond the deadlines that scientists have set for getting off of fossil fuels. Stopping fracking before that date would result in a default on the $4.5 billion in bonds.
Furthermore, there is language in the bill that could be construed as precluding Pennsylvania from banning or even regulating fracking in a way that could endanger the fracking tax revenue. In short, the banks that would lend the $4.5 billion could sue a future governor or legislature for protecting communities from fracking.
A Fracking Slush Fund
Governor Wolf has said Restore could fund solutions to Pennsylvania’s biggest problems. However, if the bill were to pass, decisions on which projects get funded wouldn’t be made by our democratically-elected legislature, but by an appointed Restore Board. The seven-person would always have at least two Republican appointees, even if Democrats take back the legislature. And the board could only fund a project with support from six members, meaning those two Republican appointees will always hold a veto over where the money would go.
Slush funds like Restore are always bad public policy. The Restore slush fund could be a disaster, only funding projects that reward political donors or well-connected corporations.
We can protect our future by stopping Restore.
Governor Wolf has failed with this fracking tax before. But this time he’s designed much of the program to appeal to Republicans, who control the legislature. He has also worked to pressure many Democratic legislators to support the bill.
Thankfully, a group of progressive champions in the House and Senate are opposing Restore PA for all the right reasons. State Representatives Danielle Friel Otten, Elizabeth Fiedler, Summer Lee, Sara Innamorato, and Chris Rabb all oppose Wolf’s bad plan. Senators Andy Dinniman and Katie Muth oppose Restore as well.
If the bill were to become law, unaccountable backroom dealing could mean Restore Pennsylvania winds up subsidizing fossil fuels and plastics, rather than the things communities need. And the state would essentially be giving up on getting off fossil fuels over the next two decades, which is exactly the time frame when we need to be doing all we can to avert climate crisis.
Tell your state reps: Say no to Wolf's Restore PA fracking tax!
Fight like you live here.