Report: Fetterman, Lamb back fracking as U.S. Senate race heats up | Thursday Morning Coffee

The news will depress, but not surprise progressives, who want to end the environmentally destructive practice

September 30, 2021 7:17 am

U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District (L) and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (R) (Capital-Star photo collage by John L. Micek)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

In a development that will depress and disappoint, but not particularly surprise progressives, two of the Democratic Party’s top tier candidates for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania have said they’d oppose a ban on natural gas exploration in the Keystone State.

 Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has said a ban on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, would turn off voters, while U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, has said he backed President Joe Biden partly because of the Delaware Democrat’s refusal to endorse a total fracking ban, according to E&E Daily, a publication focused on the energy industry.

As the industry-focused publication notes, Fetterman’s and Lamb’s view on natural gas exploration is a rare policy intersection between two candidates who are traveling very different paths in the crowded race for the Democratic nomination next year.

Lamb, a former Marine and federal prosecutor, is a well-known centrist. Fetterman, who’s been racking up the frequent flyer miles on MSNBC, has positioned himself a the preeminent progressive in the Democratic nominating contest.

Republican Sean Parnell, a western Pennsylvanian who’s also among the pack of candidates looking to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., similarly opposes a ban on fracking — a view that makes sense in a part of the state where the gas industry holds significant political sway.

“There really is no strong pro-environment major candidate in the race,” Keystone College political scientist Jeff Brauer told E&E News, “which, of course, in turn, most likely means that the next Pennsylvania U.S. senator will be pro-fracking to some degree.”

Opposition to natural gas exploration, which can lead to water pollution and other environmental contamination, tends to be stronger in the overwhelmingly blue Philadelphia suburbs, which the eventual Democratic nominee will need to carry, if he or she hopes to win the general election in November 2022.

Another of the other top tier Democrats in the race, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, supports a moratorium on fracking. Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, another Democratic hopeful, said in 2014 that she supported a moratorium, but now backs Biden’s approach, E&E News reported.

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From voting rights and education spending to debates over abortion rights and gun violence reduction, Pennsylvania lawmakers will be talking about, and voting on, issues that will impact voters across the commonwealth this fall. Help us bring you the news you need so that you can make informed decisions on the issues that affect your lives.

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Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

The Pennsylvania House voted down an amendment to an already controversial school voucher bill this week that would have allowed parents to send their kids to private school with taxpayer money due to either a COVID-19 outbreak or due to their opposition to mitigation efforts — such as a mask order. Stephen Caruso has the details.

Marley Parish has what you need to know about a suburban Philadelphia lawmaker’s plan to use $6.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds to support and retain nurses across the commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 4,570 new cases  of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to more than 1.42 million since the start of the pandemic, I report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Republicans are the clowns in the debt ceiling circus. The act isn’t funny anymore, I write in a new column. A volunteer with the National Popular Vote campaign has a bone to pick with a recent Bruce Ledewitz column on the same topic. And speaking of natural gas, a Princeton University scholar explains how U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s, D-W.Va., support for the industry could derail President Joe Biden’s climate change agenda.

LOUISVILLE, KY – MARCH 17: A teacher walks among the the masked students sitting in a socially distanced classroom session at Medora Elementary School on March 17, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. Today marks the reopening of Jefferson County Public Schools for in-person learning with new COVID-19 procedures in place. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

A federal judge has shot down an effort by some Montgomery County parents to undo a local district’s mask mandate on religious grounds, the Inquirer reports.

COVID cases and deaths are rising among younger residents of Allegheny County, the Tribune-Review reports.

Cumberland County, the state’s fastest-growing county, is becoming ever more diversePennLive reports.

Mail-in ballots will start going out in Lehigh County next week. The Morning Call runs down where you can drop them off in person.

New FBI data showing a drop in violent crime in Wilkes-Barre last year conflicts with state data, and contains ‘verifiably false information’ in at least one case, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Philadelphia will award $900K in ‘micro-grants’ to fight gun violence, WHYY-FM reports.

A former prison in Clearfield County will be used as a detention center for undocumented immigrants, WPSU-FM reports (via WITF-FM).

One of the state’s largest counties will require vaccines — will the rest of the state follow suitUSA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau takes up the question.

Despite a stalemate over the reconciliation bill, a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill is still a goRoll Call reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
9 a.m., 140 MC: House Transportation Committee
10 a.m., Capitol Steps: ‘Back to School PA’ rally
11:30 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rally to support transgender youth

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
11 a.m.: Reception for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre
12 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Dan Laughlin
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Allegheny County court candidate Jessel Costa
6 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Melissa Shusterman
6 p.m.: Reception for Commonwealth Court candidate Stacy Wallace
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a positively eye-watering $19,000 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf heads to Northumberland County and Lehigh County today for a pair of events at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. announcing “funding to stabilize child care and provide care to more children.”

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to reader and supporter Fuller Runyan, of Harrisburg, who celebrates today. Congratulations, and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from Gang of Youths to get your Thursday morning rolling. It’s ‘The Angel of 8th Ave.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
Christiano Ronaldo scored the game-winner, as Manchester United bested Villareal 2-1 on Wednesday to keep the Red Devils’ Champions League hopes alive. The Guardian has the details.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.