PGW emails show involvement in drafting anti-climate targets bill

What the Senate bill would do

The City of Philadelphia opposes any pre-emption legislation or efforts to limit its ability to govern. The city council passed a resolution opposing SB 275 in April, and city officials made it clear to PGW that it should not push for the bill. But these efforts may have been too late. Even before the bill was introduced, series of emails obtained by WHYY show gas industry lobbyists working together and with Senator Yaw’s office to develop the bill. And while representatives of UGI Corp. took the lead, PGW’s vice president for government and regulatory affairs Greg Stunder was an active participant. This despite claims that the public service is “neutral”.

Drafting of the bill took place in January and February 2021, and on several occasions, according to the emails, Stunder suggests wording changes that would strengthen the legislation, drawing inspiration from a Florida bill aimed at broaden the definition of “public service”. to include “electricity, manufactured gas, liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas, hydrogen, fuel oil, a renewable source or any other source from a utility provider who is capable and licensed to supply utilities for the property of the individual or entity. ”

The interfaith group for climate justice POWER actively commented on PGW’s diversification study, seeking to determine how to transform the fossil fuel business in a way that would preserve both good union jobs and affordability.

“We need bold leadership from PGW to address the truth of this moment,” said Julie Greenberg of POWER. “To create a transition that works for all, away from dirty fossil fuels, let’s sit down and create solutions because we can’t go on as usual.”

Greenberg said the effects of climate change, namely extreme heat and flooding, will have a disproportionate impact on overburdened low-income communities.

POWER attorney Devin McDougall of EarthJustice said PGW’s involvement in the legislation goes against PGW’s claims of neutrality on SB 275.

“These emails reflect PGW’s efforts to extend the preventive reach of SB 275 and add bite by expressly bringing in more types of energy services, building on similar bills supported by the American Gas Association in d ‘other jurisdictions,’ McDougall said. “It should be of great public concern that PGW strives to expand and strengthen SB 275 in a way that is not compatible with being a neutral observer. ”

PGW did not accept an interview with WHYY News and did not respond to written questions submitted regarding the emails.

Instead, PGW sent out a statement acknowledging that it “wholeheartedly” supported SB 275 as a way to protect the interests of its clients.

“We remain neutral on Senate Bill 275,” read the statement sent to WHYY. “However, the intent of Senate Bill 275; to protect our customers’ access to affordable energy – it is the cleanest and most abundant option – is an intention we wholeheartedly support.

The series of emails obtained by WHYY also includes Greg Stunder of PGW who sent a supporting copy to Nick Troutman, Senator Yaw’s assistant. In a Jan. 19 email from IGU lobbyist Alisa Harris to Troutman, Harris indicated unanimous support among natural gas distribution companies. “I met the other (copied) NGDCs on Friday and everyone is eager to move forward,” Harris wrote. “We spent a lot of time discussing the benefits of a fuel bill neutral. However, we will develop a strategy that will support this approach. ”

The email continues, suggesting the bill be extended beyond new construction. “We are ready to follow your example. If you think this is appropriate, the NGDC would like to schedule a call with you to discuss how best to support this effort. As before, we are happy to make calls and solicit sponsors for the invoice.

PGW did not respond to questions as to whether Stunder made it clear at some point that the city-owned utility was not included in the effort Harris said was unanimous.

PGW also did not respond to questions about whether anyone in the public service or its representatives made any efforts to support or encourage others to support the bill, as reported in the e- mail.

In a statement released this week, a spokesperson for the city of Philadelphia said the emails did not show “lobbying” on the part of PGW.

“The city remains opposed to the legislation, and the shared emails show that PGW has made its neutrality known to these same stakeholders,” the statement said.

Likewise, city council member Derek Green, who chairs the Philadelphia Gas Commission, said the emails were typical of interactions between members of industry trade groups.

About Andrew Estofan

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