Class VI Rapids: Pennsylvania’s EcoApocalyptic Legislators

[Class VI Rapids are defined as: “Nearly impossible and very dangerous. Involves risk of life.” So Class VI Rapids is the title of this regular collection of recent life-threatening environmental stories affecting The Allegheny River watershed.]

The term “EcoApocalyptic” is not hyperbole. It is not snark. It is, if anything, understatement.

The Apocalypse as described in the the biblical book of Revelation is the final destruction of the world. With respect to the world as we know it, this aptly describes the consequences of the climate crisis. As Oxford Physics Professor Raymond Pierrehumbert says, “It’s time to panic.”

The Apocalypse, of course, is religious prophecy. The EcoApocalypse, on the other hand, is scientific prediction. The EcoApocalypse is the allegorical Apocalypse made real in superstorms, disease outbreaks, heatwaves, climate wars, droughts, floods and species extinction.

There are so many Pennsylvania legislators bent on hastening our collective demise, it is impossible to cover them all in a single post. So this is a just a sampling.


State Representative Kathy Rapp

Despite her conservative bona fides that regard jobs as the currency of modern politics, in this video Representative Rapp (Republican, Allegheny River Watershed, District 65) displays her abject distaste for jobs–yes, jobs! She is so clearly biased in favor of jobs in the declining oil and gas sector that she disparages jobs in the rapidly growing green energy sector.

In questioning Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary McDonnell and Rob Altenburg, Director of Energy Center, PennFuture, she expresses angry disbelief that clean energy jobs outnumber oil and gas jobs in Pennyslvania and in her own district.

She then virtue-signals her concern over the future environmental impact and cost of recycling those abhorrently toxic—wait for it—wind turbines!

In her outrage over wind-turbine pollution, Representative Rapp, of course, completely ignores the real and present-day threats to human and environmental health resulting from her own advocacy of increased oil and gas industry pollution.

If Representative Rapp was sincere in her concern about industrial pollution, wouldn’t she have taken this opportunity to ask DEP Secretary McDonnell hard questions about permitting Warren Generating Station to pour 29,000 gallons per day of “treated” coal ash leachate (containing lead, aresenic, mercury, uranium, etc.) into the Allegheny River in her district?

Wouldn’t she have asked Secretary McDonnell what he was doing to clean the mercury from the impaired section of Allegheny River downstream from the Warren Generating Station in her district?

Wouldn’t she have asked about cleaning the radioactive elements contaminating 2.64 miles of Allegheny River bottom sediments downstream from the now defunct/bankrupt Waste Treatment Corporation plant that once dumped “treated” oil and gas wastewater into the Allegheny River in her district?

Could Representative Rapp’s pearl-clutching over recycling wind turbines have anything to do with the fact that wind generated electricity is the cheapest form of generated electricity? In 2017, Scientific American reported “U.S. wind energy will continue to be one of the lowest cost electricity generation technologies available, with the long-term wind electricity price available through a power purchase agreement coming in at about half the expected cost of just running a natural gas power plant.”

Read the entire transcript of the Pennsylvania House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee hearing.

PA Senator Joe Scarnati

Map of gravel roads in Pennsylvania where oil and gas wastewater has been spread.
Gravel roads in Pennsylvania where oil and gas wastewater has been spread. PennState Institute of Energy and the Environment. (Visit link to zoom in.)

Senator Joe Scarnati, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, represents Allegheny River Watershed District 25 in rural north central Pennsylvania. He has accepted $593,313 from the oil and gas industry, a tidy sum that bought an especially industry-pleasing (and toxic) piece of legislation he sponsored—Senate Bill 790, the Conventional Oil and Gas Act.

SB 790 passed in the Senate without a floor debate on a narrow 26-23 vote. Among many ecocidal rules in the bill, perhaps the most prominent is making it legal again to spread radioactive oil and gas wastewater on gravel roads (see map above), despite a 2018 PennState study that determined brine spreading had already dumped 200 times more carcinogenic radium onto Pennsylvania soil and into streams than all previous oil and gas industry spills.

It would be far better for the Pennsylvania environment and for the health of Pennsylvanians if Senator Scarnati would spend more of his time and campaign funds jetting around Europe, where he used his campaign credit card to pay for meals at posh restaurants and lodging in tourist areas.

For a comprehensive review of Senate Bill 790, visit the PA Environment Blog.

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is afraid Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren may keep their promises to ban fracking if elected president.

To prevent that, Toomey has sponsored a bill that prevents a president from using executive authority, such as invoking a national emergency, to ban fracking. Toomey refers to fracking as the source of an “economic renaissance.”

In addition, Senator Toomey has also sponsored legislation to prevent state governors (such as New York Governor Cuomo) from blocking construction of gas pipelines, many of which originate in the fracked gas fields of Pennsylvania.

No wonder The Onion‘s 2014 spoof of Senator Toomey still rings so true: “ExxonMobil, Chevron Locked In Bidding War To Acquire Lucrative Pennsylvania Senator.”