One Gov candidate vows fracking moratorium at sustainability debate

unnamedAll eight Democratic gubernatorial candidates showed up at the Academy of Natural Sciences’ Sustainability Forum on Monday evening with the same apparent goal in mind: To prove s/he’s the “greenest” of them all.

Debated issues at the debate sponsored by five environmental nonprofits ranged from fracking to state park funding. And while every candidate vied for the top spot, all made certain the audience knew no matter who wins this spring, the Democrats are a better choice on green issues than Gov. Tom Corbett, who was invited to the forum but did not show.

Moderated by Newsworks/WHYY reporter Dave Davies, the night saw several outbursts from anti-fracking demonstrators and even an unplanned pre-debate announcement of sorts by Philly economic activist Cheri Honkala, in which she denounced the Democratic and Republican parties for not focusing on third party ballot access, and told the audience to vote Green Party.

Here’s where the candidates stand, in short: Democratic candidates Allyson Schwartz, John Hanger, Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf, Ed Pawlowski, and Rob McCord all support a moratorium on fracking on public land; Jo Ellen Litz, a second-tier candidate from Lebanon County, opposed a moratorium; and only Max Myers, a pastor from Mechanicsburg, said he supported a moratorium on fracking.

That stance earned Myers the largest applause, often saying he supported pollution over profits, and has a plan to create a “People’s Commission” of unelected non-lobbyists in the state, to help the executive branch on issues.

Amongst his statements that got the biggest pops from the audience: “If you really care about people there should be a statewide moratorium on fracking,” and, his insistence that we need a “new DEP secretary; one who understands global warming.”

What he didn’t mention: His website notes that his moratorium would not end drilling outright, but “allow everyone to ‘catch their breath’ after a very aggressive drilling expansion season. The moratorium period should be used to review data in an honest and open arena. With environmental issues as important as these are, concerned citizens need to be heard, honored, and respected.”

His site additionally notes that he wouldn’t end the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale as governor, but would “support our Pennsylvania universities and private sector to engage in research and development of a better extraction method.”

I livetweeted the whole thing here.

Afterwards, many who showed up to watch had mixed feelings.

“I thought a lot of the candidates made really good points,” said Jim Saksa, a lawyer in attendance at the debate. He noted he’s against a moratorium on fracking.

“People that argue that we should have a moratorium don’t understand the amount of money that the state gets from fracking. [A moratorium] is a pie-in-the-sky, never-gonna-happen sort of thing,” he said.

“The obvious answer is Myers,” said Claudia Crane an anti-fracking activist who sported a T-shirt reading ‘Good governors don’t frack their people,’ after being asked if there was a candidate who supported her stance. “He was the only one who argued for a moratorium. But it’s easy for him to be against it because he hasn’t gotten the same traction and he’s not as compromised as the other candidates are.”

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