Harrisburg, PA – June 22, 2022 – Today, Pennsylvania Senate Democrats held a press conference shortly after President Joe Biden made a call to federal and state law makers to pause gas taxes.
“Our stance is simple; we are calling on state Republicans to join us in supporting a suspension to the state gas tax. We know there is concern about a loss of revenue while the pause is in place, but Pennsylvania has billions in surplus funds that can be used to maintain roads and bridges during the gas tax holiday,” said Senator Jay Costa, Senate Democratic Leader. “This is about putting people over corporate profit. We need to implement a gas tax holiday, use Pennsylvania’s budget surplus to ensure our roads and bridges still receive the funding they need, and hold the oil and gas industry accountable to pass the savings to consumers.”
Several Democratic Senators joined Sen. Costa, including Sen. Hughes, Sen. Boscola, Sen. Cappelletti, Sen. Flynn, Sen. Haywood, Sen. Santarsiero, Sen. Schwank, and Sen. Street. All expressing their support for President’s call to states to pause the gas tax and make sure those savings were felt by consumers and not absorbed by the oil and gas industry.
“We have the money to support a gas tax holiday. We can give hardworking families some relief at the gas pump and still make sure our roads and bridges receive funding,” said Senator Vincent Hughes. “And when we do this tax reduction, the oil and gas industry need to leave those savings for consumers. We’re stepping up. We’re responding to the President’s call. It’s time for state Republicans and the oil and gas industry to step up too.”
Senator Lisa Boscola and Senator Marty Flynn recently introduced bills that would temporarily pause the gas tax in Pennsylvania. A statewide gas tax holiday could amount to an average of thirty cents a gallon in savings to consumers.
“I applaud President Biden’s call for a gas tax holiday,” said Sen. Marty Flynn. “Right now, Pennsylvania families are paying triple the price for gas compared to what they paid last year. This is one of the most pressing issues for families, and we have money in the bank to help them. I’m done naming bridges, it’s time we do something for the people.”
“Gas tax relief is something we can do immediately in this inflation storm,” said Senator Lisa Boscola. “The billions in surplus we have is taxpayer money, and taxpayers deserve some of this money back. Combined with the federal plan, a state gas tax holiday would give real savings to families.”
Sen. Collett, Sen. Dillon, Sen. Fontana, Sen. Kearney, and Sen. Lindsey Williams also attended the press conference to show support for a proposed state gas tax holiday.
A full video of the press conference and remarks from all speakers from the Democratic Senate Caucus is available online.
Harrisburg – September 29, 2020 – The Senate Democratic Policy Committee today held a virtual public hearing today at the request of Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D- Bucks) to focus on electricity outages, reliability and preparedness.
“At the end of the day, we need to know that Pennsylvanians will have access to reliable electric service,” Santarsiero said. “Electricity reliability is not a new issue, but one that we have seen consistently worsen, particularly as we’ve seen a rise in the number of storms that pack high winds and hard downpours. Year-round electric reliability and preparedness is vital to the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians, and an issue that must be addressed both by the industry itself and the agencies that regulate it.”
Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton), chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, added, “It is important that we do all we can to assure that power outages are as limited as possible. We also need to make sure our utility and emergency service providers are ready to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible in times of crisis. Ensuring consumers have adequate and potentially lifesaving access to electricity in their homes is essential.”
The Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) announced in their 2019 Electric Service Reliability Report that a total of 52 “reportable outage events” disrupted electric service to residents and businesses across the state. This is the highest number of recorded incidents in Pennsylvania since the PUC began collecting reliability data in 1993.
Reportable power outage events have mainly been driven by severe thunderstorms during the spring and fall. These events interrupted service to 1,988,188 customers last year according to the PUC’s latest Electric Service Reliability Report. These incidents are different from previous spikes in outage figures that were driven by a small number of high-impact storms, like hurricanes or severe winter storms.
The PUC report said that the increase in severe weather events combined with many electric distribution companies (EDCs) performance metrics being rated as “poor” in 2019, calls into question the reliability performance and resilience of the overall Pennsylvania electrical distribution system.
“Following up on the Electric Service Reliability Report, Commission staff will be meeting with the EDCs in October to discuss overall electric reliability and options for improvement through available regulatory tools,” Gladys Brown Dutrieuille, chairman of the PUC, said.
Dutrieuille said that in instances where extreme weather is known to be heading towards Pennsylvania, the PUC increases their efforts to be ready at all levels and will continue working through regulatory measures to make sure the EDC performance in these areas improve.
“If the impending weather event appears to be of a significant impact to the Commonwealth, the Commission works with PEMA and other state and federal agencies on preparation. Commission Emergency Preparedness Staff also work with the EDCs and other jurisdictional lifeline utilities (water, wastewater, telephone, and natural gas) to understand their preparations and to capture any unmet needs,” Dutrieuille continued.
Electric service provider representatives also all stated that the number one reason for power outages in Pennsylvania is downed trees. Vegetation management is essential in mitigating disruptions in electric services.
“Changing weather patterns in our region has led to an increased growth rate in the vegetation in proximity to our transmission and distribution facilities. To reduce disruptions in service, our Vegetation Management team has consistently minimized on-ROW (Right-of-Way) vegetation,” Kevin Walker, Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of Duquesne Light Company, said. “We are constantly examining these challenges, evaluating strategies, and working to mitigate the off- ROW tree problems in our service territory.”
Stephanie R. Raymond, Vice President of Distribution Operations at PPL also said that it is technological upgrades such as Smart Grids and tracking outages through data rather than reacting to them once they have already occurred, that will continue to allow electric service providers to improve consistent and reliable service.
However, Nicole LeVine, Vice President of Electric Operations at PECO said that just this year, “…we have experienced one of the most challenging storm years ever – including two of the ten most destructive storms in our company’s history two months apart.”
Santarsiero said that due to the serve weather instances this year, his office put out an informal survey within his district and found that anecdotally, “51% of respondents indicated that they lose power any time there is a significant weather event and 77% of respondents indicated that they lose power for more than 4 hours at a time.”
Santarsiero continued, “No one is calling for perfect, as wonderful as perfection would be. Ultimately, we have to make that balance of what is reasonable and what isn’t. Where we are today is a different place than where we were 20 years ago. Redefining what that means in the new context is the challenge that each utility and the PUC will have to grapple with.”
Boscola, who has chaired the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure for almost two decades, said how important utility reliability and access is for Pennsylvania customers, especially in times of severe and unpredictable weather and as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tanya McCloskey, Acting Consumer Advocate for the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate said that ensuring continuous and reliable electric service is necessary to ensuring the safety of consumers and the public, especially this winter as more consumers shelter at home for health reasons and remain at home for work and school as we continue to battle against the spread of COVID-19.
“It is important that the types of investments we heard about to be made and the long term plans we heard about today are put into place to make electricity more reliable. I hope this is a continuation of the conversation, not the end of it, since we have a lot of work that needs to be done,” concluded Santarsiero.
The following testified at today’s hearing:
- Stephen Bennett, Manager, Regulatory/Legislative Affairs, PJM Interconnection – View Testimony
- Terry Fitzpatrick, President & CEO, Energy Association of Pennsylvania – View Testimony
- Nicole LeVine, Vice President, Electric Operations, PECO – View Testimony
- Stephanie R. Raymond, Vice President – Distribution Operations, PPL – View Testimony
- Kevin Walker, Vice President & Chief Operations Officer, Duquesne Light Company – View Testimony
- Scott Wyman, President, Pennsylvania Operations, FirstEnergy – View Testimony
- Gladys Brown Dutrieuille, Chairman, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission – View Testimony
- Tanya McCloskey, Acting Consumer Advocate, Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate – View Testimony
- John Evans, Small Business Advocate, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – View Testimony
Senators who attended today’s hearing include: Jay Costa (D- Allegheny), Larry Farnese (D- Philadelphia), Sharif Street (D- Philadelphia), Tim Kearney (D- Chester/Delaware), and Lindsey Williams (D- Allegheny)
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee has already held numerous hearings regarding COVID-19 related issues in Pennsylvania in the past six months, which can all be found on Senator Boscola’s website.
A full recording of this hearing, and links to all previous hearings, is available at senatorboscola.com/policy.
BUCKS COUNTY – September 14, 2020 – Two Bucks County cultural institutions were featured in a Senate committee hearing that highlighted the value of historic, arts and cultural organizations to our local and state economies, and the support they need to survive the challenges of the pandemic.
State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) today co-hosted the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Arts, Cultural, and Historical Institutions of Pennsylvania. Two local panelists, Kyle McKoy, President & CEO of the Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle, and Alexander Fraser, Producing Director of the Bucks County Playhouse, provided testimony on the challenges of serving the public during the pandemic.
“We are so fortunate to have such a robust arts and culture scene here in the 10th state Senate district, but it is clear that these organizations have faced incredible hardship during the pandemic,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “We heard today about the challenges of hosting in-person performances, exhibits and tours, ensuring adequate fundraising, and issues with navigating the grant process to help keep their doors open and their staff on payroll. I am committed to ensuring there is continued opportunities for funding and resources available for the industry, as they struggle to serve the community in these unprecedented times.”
Sen. Santarsiero pointed to the arts and cultural institutions as vital to our economy and to our community well-being, and he added that if there is a way to resume live performances that can be done safely for the performers, support personnel and audience, then it should be done.
“The public and private sectors have responded in tremendous ways to support charitable organizations. A key shift in giving has been the increased focus on the need for nonprofit entities to receive general operating support,” McKoy testified. “Just like the for-profit sector, there is a cost for doing business for not for profit organizations also–we need to pay people, maintain properties, buildings and offices. In doing so, nonprofits are vital to the health and viability of our local communities. Nonprofits support other businesses—banking and financial services, manufacturing, hospitality, printing, technology, and the list goes on.”
McKoy added that the Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle’s combined total economic impact is $13.9 million, in direct, indirect and induced spending for the Doylestown area. Similarly, Fraser said the Bucks County Playhouse drew over 85,000 visitors to New Hope, generating $10 million to the Pennsylvania economy last year.
“Like all performing arts institutions, today, the Playhouse is fighting to stay alive. As a young nonprofit organization with no endowment, the Playhouse is particularly vulnerable,” testified Fraser. “Please allow theatres to resume indoor performances with prudent safety guidelines such as the allowance of 50% occupancy for in-door restaurants.”
The full video of the hearing is available here.