You are here

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Senate Hydrogen Hub Testimony Illuminates Cost, Viability Concerns; Risk of Wasted Taxpayer Dollars

By staff - Ohio River Valley Institute, December 4, 2023

Financial and regulatory support for the gas-based ARCH2 Appalachian Hydrogen Hub risks reduced economic growth, fewer jobs, and higher utility bills, taxes, and prices for Pennsylvanians, according to testimony delivered today at the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee’s hearing on hydrogen infrastructure by Ohio River Valley Institute Senior Researcher Sean O’Leary.

Hydrogen and companion carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology are exorbitantly expensive and relatively ineffective means of decarbonization, research shows, and undue state support for their development may result in stranded assets, wasted public funds, and minimal economic and job growth.

“For these reasons, the greatest risk facing you as Pennsylvania policymakers isn’t that you may provide too little support for the state’s hydrogen hubs but rather that you may provide too much,” O’Leary explained to the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee. “That is why we at the Ohio River Valley Institute hope members of this committee will help temper financial and regulatory support for the hubs to reflect their actual value and costs. We hope that members will work to ensure that state assistance is limited to the small number of projects and specific applications in which hydrogen is either the most cost-effective or only means of decarbonization. And we hope that, when hydrogen is used, it will be hydrogen made from water and not natural gas, which is both polluting and economically counterproductive.”

The Clean Energy Pathway for Southwestern Pennsylvania describes how concerted investment in energy efficiency and distributed renewable generation in the ten counties surrounding Pittsburgh would cut power sector carbon emissions by 92% by 2035, all at a total cost 13% less than decarbonization models reliant on natural gas and carbon capture. The Clean Energy Pathway would additionally support the creation of 12,416 jobs and yield annual environmental and health benefits of more than $2.5 billion by 2035 via efficiency expenditures and residential bill savings.

Download Testimony Here.

Ignoring Climate Scientists and Environmental Justice Advocates, DOE Awards Billions to Fossil Fuel Hydrogen

By Abbe Ramanan - Linked In, October 30, 2023

On October 13th, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the recipients of the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (“H2Hubs”) funding. H2Hubs will award up to $7 billion to seven regional hydrogen hubs around the country. Disappointingly, more than half of the money from this massive federal investment will go towards Hubs producing hydrogen from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS), also known as blue hydrogen. This massive investment ignores major concerns cited by climate scientists, environmental justice advocates, and clean energy experts.

One major concern identified by climate scientists is especially worrying: hydrogen gas leaked into the atmosphere is an indirect greenhouse gas that extends the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere, which means hydrogen has 35 times the climate warming impacts of CO2. A massive buildout of hydrogen infrastructure at this scale, without further research into how to safely and securely transport and store hydrogen, will almost certainly lead to significant short-term warming.

Although DOE has stated that each Hub’s projected benefits played a large role in determining awards, the H2Hubs process has suffered from a lack of transparency. Prospective awardees were not required to publish their proposals publicly, so while many of the Hubs promise community benefits, how these community benefits will be generated – and how those benefits will outweigh the potential harms of each Hub – remain opaque. DOE is hosting a series of local engagement opportunities for each Hub, which will hopefully provide opportunities to cut through the hype and learn more about what these projects will mean for the communities impacted.

While we don’t know much about these Hubs, what we do know suggests that most of these projects will do more harm than good:

Biden Funding for Hydrogen Hubs Threatens Communities, Exacerbates Climate Crisis

By Patrick Sullivan, Center for Biological Diversity; Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition; Peter Hart, Food and Water Watch; Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper Network - Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Facts, October 13, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden administration announced today that it will fund seven hydrogen hubs with $7 billion in taxpayer dollars to rapidly expand the production, transport, and use of hydrogen across the nation – sacrificing communities, worsening localized pollution and water crises, doubling down on national sacrifice zones, and perpetuating our reliance on fossil fuels. 

“Throwing billions at hydrogen hubs deepens our dependence on fossil fuels and worsens the climate emergency,” said Maggie Coulter, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “President Biden should be urgently investing in proven and increasingly affordable solar and wind energy. It’s wasteful and misguided to fund false solutions like hydrogen that only further burden frontline communities.”

The Department of Energy’s announcement to fund regional hydrogen hubs in the Mid-Atlantic, Appalachia, the Gulf Coast, California, the Midwest, the Dakotas/Minnesota, and the Pacific Northwest flies in the face of the numerous adverse impacts such hubs will have on communities. Billions of dollars in funding for the planned hydrogen buildout subjects already disproportionately adversely affected communities to more pollution and dangerous infrastructure.

“Today’s announcement is a pledge of allegiance to dirty energy by the Biden administration. It is at once a betrayal of environmental justice communities that have been suffering at the hands of the same polluting industries that will now benefit from this misappropriation of taxpayer dollars and of future generations who will suffer the climate chaos hydrogen hub development guarantees,” said Karen Feridun, Co-founder of the Better Path Coalition in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this year, over 180 regional and national climate, community and environmental groups urged the Department of Energy to reject the “hydrogen hype” and ditch funding to expand hydrogen-based technologies touted as climate solutions by the fossil fuel industry. In fact, the vast majority of hydrogen is generated from fossil fuels, and it itself is an indirect greenhouse gas. 

“The build out of massive hydrogen infrastructure is little more than an industry ploy to rebrand fracked gas. The Biden Administration has clearly fallen for this scam hook, line and sinker. This multi-billion dollar bet on greenwashed dirty energy will undermine efforts to address the climate crisis, while increasing pollution of our air and water, and milk taxpayers for billions in new fossil fuel subsidies,” said Jim Walsh, Policy Director of Food & Water Watch. 

“The avalanche of funding from the Infrastructure Law to create Hydrogen Hubs threatens to doom our national commitment to keep the earth from global climate catastrophe. Efforts to replace greenhouse gas emitting energy sources with renewable and truly clean energy will be undone by these subsidies to support methane and other polluting fuels that will make matters worse. Our government must stop investing in dirty energy and instead launch a full-on campaign for non-polluting renewables,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, leader of Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Hydrogen production requires massive amounts of water; takes more energy to produce than it generates; is more likely to explode and burns hotter than conventional fossil fuels; and is more corrosive to pipelines – increasing threats in already overburdened communities, and extending our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

“We need an ambitious transition away from dirty energy, not another taxpayer subsidy that enables Big Oil to repackage fossil fuels as so-called clean energy,” said Sarah Lutz, Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth US. “The Biden Administration should not be funding hydrogen infrastructure that will lock in decades more of dirty energy production in frontline communities already overburdened with pollution.”

UAW members strike in suburban Philadelphia

By John Leslie - Workers Voice, September 24, 2023

On Sept. 11, members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 644 at Dometic in Montgomery County, Pa., went on strike to demand fair wages and benefits. In negotiations, the company offered a 10.1% wage increase over the life of a three-year contract, with workers’ health-care costs increasing by 5% over the same period. This is not enough to keep pace with inflation. At the outset of the strike, Jim Hutchinson, the president of Local 644, said, “We have a decent portion of this workforce that, quite frankly, is below the living wage.”

In a video shared on Twitter, Dave Richards, a 22-year veteran of the Dometic plant, said that with “food, gas, and everything going up … our wages are nowhere near what we need to survive and have a good living.” Dometic, which manufactures appliances and accessories for boats and recreational vehicles, made $4 billion in profits last year while their workers struggle to make ends meet.

On Friday, Sept. 22, a rally called by the UAW gathered more than 100 strikers and supporters to demand a fair contract now. The rally included local politicians, UAW officials, striking UAW members from New Jersey, and representatives of other unions like the regional AFL-CIO and the Teamsters. Members of SAG-AFTRA, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Teamsters were visible in the crowd.

During the rally, one UAW member spoke, saying, “There is no more middle ground. We are no longer asking for our right to the American Dream, we are demanding that dream, and if you don’t give it to us, we’re coming to fucking take it.”

While the strike at Dometic is not part of the larger Big Three auto strike, this is a crucial fight for all workers. As the wealthiest segment of society has reaped billions in profits, the workers who create that wealth have fallen further behind. Many of these workers were deemed “essential” during the pandemic and worked long hours while putting their health and the health of their families at risk. Dometic workers deserve a fair contract, not one that leaves them behind.

Ten-Week Strike Wins “Substantial Improvements” for Locals 506 and 618

By staff - United Electrical Workers, September 2, 2023

On June 22, after nearly two months of negotiations, the 1,400 members of UE Locals 506 and 618 voted down Wabtec’s last, best and final offer. Following the vote, second-shift workers marched out of the plant and UE members set up picket lines around the massive facility.

It was the second strike since Wabtec took over the facility from General Electric in 2019. Following a nine-day strike in 2019, the UE locals negotiated a first contract with the new company which preserved most of the conditions they had won over nearly eight decades of bargaining with GE. However, they reluctantly agreed to modifications in the grievance procedure and to lower wage rates for new hires, who would progress to the full “legacy” wage rates over ten years.

In their second contract, members sought to address both the inequities of the “progression” for new hires and the lack of accountability caused by Wabtec’s abuse of the grievance process over the past four years. The company simply refused to address issues in the plant, pushing everything to arbitration — a study by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found that grievances per worker had almost doubled since Wabtec took over, and the company was less likely to settle disputes than GE. Members were also keen to make up for their loss of purchasing power as inflation soared in the past two years.

As soon as the UE members walked out, support poured in from the community and around the country. Major unions and labor leaders, including the UAW, Teamsters, and Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson, who spoke to UE’s 2021 convention, tweeted support for the strike. Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, sent a solidarity photo, and UE locals around the country sent letters of support. Both of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators, Bob Casey and John Fetterman, issued statements backing the UE members. Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis visited the picket line in the first week of the strike and sent a letter to Wabtec CEO Rafael Santana, indicating that both he and Governor Josh Shapiro supported the workers’ demands for a fair contract.

Appalachian Economy Sees Few Gains From Natural Gas Development, Report Says

By Jon Hurdle - Inside Climate News, August 23, 2023

Natural gas production in the Appalachian region of the United States has failed to produce promised increases in jobs and income since the fracking boom began there in the late 2000s, with economic stagnation likely to persist now that output of the fuel has passed its peak, according to a report issued on Tuesday.

The study from the Ohio River Valley Institute, a nonprofit research group, found that gas-producing areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia lost more than 10,000 jobs from 2008 to 2021 and that their personal income growth trailed that of the three states and the U.S. as a whole. Their population dropped by more than 46,000 during the period.

Even though gross domestic product of the 22-county region surged at four times the rate of the states overall from 2008 to 2019, little of that new wealth helped local economies because natural gas investment is mostly made in capital, not labor, and because many of the industry’s workers came from distant areas like Texas or Oklahoma where oil and gas skills were more readily available, the report said.

“GDP, which is often cited as a principal barometer of economic health, failed to produce commensurate gains in local measures of prosperity and well-being, including job, income and population growth,” it said.

Frackalachia Update: Peak Natural Gas and the Economic Implications for Appalachia

By Sean O'Leary - Ohio River Valley Institute, August 22, 2023

By the first quarter of 2020, EQT Corporation, the nation’s largest domestic producer of natural gas, was supplying more than 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Just a decade earlier, EQT’s output wasn’t even one-tenth as much and the company ranked an undistinguished 25th for output among US producers. But EQT had the good fortune and foresight to base all of its operations in Appalachia, which made it the greatest beneficiary of what turned out to be the world’s richest natural gas field. 

In those early days of 2010, when EQT was the scuffling little guy trying to find a place among giants, such as ExxonMobil, the company employed just 1,815 people. But, by 2020, when EQT’s production had surpassed that of ExxonMobil and all others, its employee count mushroomed to . . . 624.

Yes, EQT’s head count actually declined by nearly two-thirds between 2010 and 2020. In fairness, some of EQT’s job reduction was attributable to its spin-off of Equitrans Midstream (EQM) in 2018. But, even if you add EQM’s 2020 head count to EQT’s, combined employment at the two companies was only 1,395 in 2020, still a quarter smaller than EQT’s workforce in 2010.

EQT’s tale of skyrocketing output accompanied by a shrinking workforce helps us understand important things about the shale gas industry. It helps explain why, as the Ohio River Valley Institute documented in 2021, the Appalachian natural gas boom failed to deliver what had been expected to be hundreds of thousands of new jobs for the region. And it demonstrates that as the natural gas industry matures, it becomes less jobs-intensive and its already meager contributions to economic development and prosperity become even fewer. The dynamic is simple. As a larger share of output comes from existing wells and fewer new ones are dug and work is completed on the construction of processing plants and pipelines, fewer workers are needed. 

Consequently, if production stagnates and the only need for new wells is to replace those that retire, the economic value of the gas industry to Appalachia may diminish even further. And if the Energy Information Administration is correct in its most recent forecast for domestic natural gas production between now and 2050, that is exactly the scenario Appalachia and its natural gas industry are facing.

According to the EIA’s “Annual Energy Outlook 2023”, Appalachian natural gas production likely peaked in 2022. Although this year’s events may prove that forecast to be incorrect in the short term, the long-term trend is clear. Production is leveling off. Indeed, data show that Appalachian production began to plateau as early as 2019. And, as this report will show, economic outcomes in the 22 counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia that are responsible for 90% of Appalachian gas production deteriorated even further since 2019, which was the last year examined in ORVI’s original study of the Appalachian natural gas boom’s economic impacts in the counties where it is concentrated – an area christened “Frackalachia.”

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Targeted Employment: Reconnecting Appalachia’s Disconnected Workforce

By Claire Kovach, Stephen Herzenberg, Amanda Woodrum, and Ted Boettner - ReImagine Institute, Keystone Research Center, Ohio River Valley Institute, July 25, 2023

The Appalachian region has long suffered from not having enough good paying jobs. Even when the unemployment rate is low, too many Appalachians are disconnected from the workforce entirely due to a myriad of factors. The result has been a long-term structural unemployment problem that has persisted for decades, with too many Appalachian adults out of the workforce entirely and unable to secure a decent paying job where they live.

A federal job subsidy program that is targeted at breaking down barriers to employment – such as improving the skills and experience of potential workers to meet current employer demands in their local labor market – and connecting them with a job could not only boost incomes and improve the livelihood of thousands of Appalachians but also give people self-esteem, a source of identity, and feel more connected to their community.

This report examines the economic conditions of Appalachia with a particular focus on the Appalachian counties of four states—Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—that comprise the footprint of ReImagine Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley Institute. This includes describing how Appalachia has been a “region apart” from the rest of America, including its history of resource extraction and exploitation, the collapse of the steel industry, and now coal, that has led to large employment losses in the area, and how the region’s uneven development has led to chronically low rates of employment, disenfranchisement from the labor market and even loss of hope underpinning the opioid epidemic from which the Appalachian region was particularly hard hit.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

LNS Supports Workers’ Demand to Build Green Locomotives

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, June 30, 2023

1400 workers in Erie, PA have been out on strike since June, demanding that their employer, Wabtec, start producing green locomotives. In a statement of solidarity, the Labor Network for Sustainability said:

The unions were denied their basic rights to strike over grievances, and most importantly, over the company’s refusal to move forward with worker-supported, environmentally necessary green locomotive production.

 This strike may well represent the first instance ever of unionized workers striking to force their employers to make products to protect the climate. That’s historic. 

 The Labor Network for Sustainability supports the United Electrical Workers in their fight to manufacture more sustainable transportation. Their decision to strike represents their decision to prolong life on our planet by making lower emission locomotives to carry freight across this great country. Their decision also upholds the livelihood of many communities that these railroads run through that face negative effects from the current engines.

 The railroad industry is still behind with making the necessary steps in maximizing their efficiency with their right-of-way, including: electrifying the last-mile of their urban rail yards, sharing their tracks with electrified inter and intracity transit, and upgrading their locomotives to non-pollutant green locomotives, ones touted by the UE workers in Erie.

Employment Creation through Green Locomotive Manufacturing at Wabtec’s Erie, Pennsylvania Facility

By Alex Press - Jacobin, June 24, 2023

On the evening of June 22, members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) crowded into Iroquois High School to vote on whether they would accept what their boss was offering them. They are employed by Wabtec (an abbreviation of Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation), at a four-million-square-foot locomotive manufacturing plant in Lawrence Park, on the east side of Erie, Pennsylvania.

Lawrence Park was built by General Electric (GE), which ran the plant for more than a century before the company spun off its $4-billion-a-year transportation arm in 2019, transferring ownership to Wabtec. The area still feels like a company town: the roughly four thousand residents are tied to the plant in countless ways, and UE signs dot Lawrence Park’s Main Street, affixed to telephone poles and stuck in front lawns.

At Iroquois High, the members of UE Local 506 and Local 618 (the latter consists of the plant’s clerical employees whose jobs have not been eliminated by automation, now numbering in the single digits) were voting on Wabtec’s last, best, and final offer for a new four-year contract. They struck for nine days to win that first contract in 2019, defeating some of Wabtec’s most egregious proposals but giving up certain provisions they had enjoyed under GE, some of which they hoped to win back during the current negotiations. The company’s 1,400 workers have now been without a contract since June 10, when that first contract expired.

Months of bargaining failed to produce a tentative agreement, and the company’s actions only increased the workers’ frustration. Hours before the contract expired, Wabtec informed Local 506 president Scott Slawson that it was considering permanently subcontracting out 275 union jobs, which members read as a threat. That interpretation was only confirmed when the company then told Slawson on June 20 that it would rescind that move should the workers accept the offer.

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.