The Trump campaign is prepping a targeted, Pennsylvania attack on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over their opposition to fracking for natural gas. Many political analysts believe Pennsylvania is one of the most-flip states for Democrats if they hope to unseat President Trump.
During a call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Trump Victory marshaled five Pennsylvania GOP congressmen to talk fracking and to promote the natural gas boom that has created tens of thousands of jobs in the commonwealth across the last decade. The call was a preview of Team Trump’s messaging for the home stretch in Pennsylvania, especially that now Harris is on the ticket.
In a March presidential debate, Biden made a pledge of “No new fracking.” And in 2019, Harris told a CNN town hall she would take executive action to ban fracking on federal lands “on day one,” while further pledging to pursue legislation to ban it elsewhere.
Biden, however, has been pushing back on the idea he wants to ban fracking, going so far as to ask TV stations to remove advertisements that claim he does.
A study released last year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated a fracking ban would cost Pennsylvania 609,000 jobs, $261 billion in state GDP and $23.4 billion in state and local tax revenues.
Rep. John Joyce (PA-13) invoked heroic football lore, saying the people of Pennsylvania would be a “steel curtain” against the Biden ticket, referencing the great Steelers defensive teams of the late 70’s and early 80’s.
“Together, Vice President Biden and Senator Harris are selling a radical agenda,” Joyce said, pointing to Harris’ support of the Green New Deal. “This radical agenda is one Pennsylvanians don’t want, and Pennsylvanians cannot afford.”
The representatives also said Biden isn’t truly at the helm of his own party, or even his own campaign — an idea almost certain to be seen in fall TV spots.
“It might be Joe Biden at the top of the ticket, but it’s going to be the policies of AOC [Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and the far left that are going to run this party,” Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14) said.
“It’s pretty clear that watching the convention at this point, Vice President Biden might be at the top of the ticket as the Democratic nominee — Bernie Sanders is the one who is actually running the party and the agenda,” said Rep. Scott Perry (PA-10).
The Republican messaging effort comes as the Mariner East 2 Pipeline (ME2) has once again flared as a point of contention after a drilling accident near the pipeline caused bentonite clay, a nontoxic substance, to leak into the 535-acre lake Marsh Creek State Park in Chester County just over a week ago.
When completed, the pipeline will carry natural gas from southwest and southcentral Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook terminal in Delaware County.
Although the clay, which is used as a drilling lubricant, is non-toxic, environmental groups say the substance could affect some wildlife. And the spill has emboldened many Democrats and environmentalists to renew their attacks on the pipeline.
Late Tuesday, the Chester County Board of Commissioners released a letter it sent to Gov. Wolf insisting that the “construction of ME2 must be stopped and the permits authorizing its construction must be revoked.”
While the pro-natural-gas position will certainly resonate in the southwest portion of the state where most of the drilling jobs are found, Rep. Thompson said they expect to have success selling the message in southeast Pennsylvania, even though Democrats have been showing more strength there in recent years.
“I think the people of southeastern Pennsylvania and all across this country are very familiar with food supply chain disruptions,” because of the coronavirus crisis, Thompson said. “I think this is a perfect time, now that they’re paying attention to that, that they understand how much the cost of energy contributes to the affordability of the food supply chain.”
Reschenthaler also touched on the Marcus Hook gas terminal from a geopolitical viewpoint.
“I want to see liquified natural gas being shipped from the port in Philadelphia going to Gdańsk, Poland and putting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin on his heels,” Reschenthaler said.
The fracking boom since 2000 has benefitted other states like Colorado and North Dakota, but Pennsylvania is the main presidential swing state where fracking has taken off.
In 2016, President Trump won the state by less than 45,000 votes.