Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), the chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, reacted to a hearing on a House bill by issuing a statement that concluded, “It is often said that we cannot legislate against stupidity. That is true but we can stop stupid legislation from becoming law. Should House Bill 170 or any similar legislation pass the House of Representatives, it will not be considered in the Senate.”
The “stupid” legislation would establish setbacks from natural gas wells of up to 5,000 feet.
Nowhere in his statement did Yaw acknowledge the real world adverse impacts to health and safety that led a Grand Jury to recommend the setbacks that Representative Danielle Friel Otten (D-155) introduced for consideration by the legislature.
It’s stupid that the chair of Pennsylvania’s Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee thinks legislation intended to protect the natural and human environment is not worthy of consideration.
It’s stupid that Senate leadership allows Senator Yaw to make unilateral decisions about which matters will be taken up by the full Senate and which won’t by refusing them a committee vote.
It’s stupid that the leadership has not called on Yaw to retract his statement and apologize for his insensitive remarks.
It’s even more stupid that the leadership has not removed him from his seat on the Committee.
It’s stupid that Pennsylvania’s broken ethics rules allow someone who has regularly disclosed his financial interests (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2017, 2022) in the methane gas industry to chair an environmental resources and energy committee in the first place.
It’s stupid that Governor Josh Shapiro has not had anything to say about Yaw’s statement.
In fact, it’s stupid that episodes like this one get such little notice.
It’s stupid that it’s accepted that Pennsylvania’s government is a clusterfuck.
It’s stupid that people are left to ask for crumbs from their government. Setbacks are crumbs.
It’s stupid that our government’s fossil fuel ambitions blind them to the science, including the first publicly funded study in the 20 years since fracking came to Pennsylvania. It’s a deeply flawed study that, in spite of itself, found that impacts of drilling are felt as far as 10 miles away. Setbacks are crumbs.
It’s stupid that roughly 2,500 studies, government reports, and media inquiries demonstrating the harms of fracking have been all but ignored by both parties.
It’s stupid that attempts by the people to make thoughtful recommendations or share their testimonials with their government are ignored.
It’s stupid that all of this cascading dysfunction is happening against the backdrop of the climate crisis. What’s a safe setback for the planet?
It’s stupid that both parties are aligned in their support of false solutions like hydrogen and carbon capture that represent nothing more than the next generation of fracking in Pennsylvania. Here’s how Yaw put it, “Moreover, the hydrogen hub projects which have been the subject of numerous accolades by the Administration during the past two weeks, and the billions of dollars involved, are dead on arrival without a continuing natural gas industry. No energy company on the planet will consider doing business in Pennsylvania.”
The planet is on fire. Our government is fanning the flames. People asking for even the smallest crumbs of protection for their families are dismissed and disparaged. People asking for any more are cast as extremists. Now, that’s stupid.