I am honored to be receiving tonight in Pittsburgh an Energy Leadership Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times. http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/news/2012/05/16/meet-the-energy-leadership-awards.html.
I have been blessed to have had energy leadership opportunities outside and in government, as the Public Advocate for utility consumers in Philadelphia, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. I thank Governor Casey and Governor Rendell, as well as the Pennsylvania State Senate, for nominating and confirming me.
As Governor Casey always said, the test is, what did you do with the power? I have supported ending state-granted monopolies in electricity generation, natural gas supply, and telecommunications. Customers now have market choices in those areas, and companies can enter the marketplace and compete for customers. Though competition does not work in every sphere or for every service or need, competition in well-structured markets normally is the greatest means to efficiency.
I have supported policies that set standards for energy efficiency and clean energy production such as Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Power Standard and Act 129 that established energy efficiency goals for electricity distribution utilities. Nothing gives me more personal satisfaction than to see soon 25 wind farms in Pennsylvania and more than 6,000 solar projects already operating.
I have also supported the development of carbon capture and storage technology, as well as coal mine safety, both of which are essential for coal's future. I am proud to have played a small role, as Chair of Pennsylvania's Coal Mine Safety Board, in making 2010 the first year no miner died on the job in Pennsylvania's long history. The major credit for that tremendous accomplishment belongs to the coal mining companies and the United Mine Workers union.
I also had the privilege to serve as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from 2008 to 2011 and put in place 5 new regulatory packages that modernized, strengthened water withdrawal, water disposal, gas well construction, buffer protections for streams and that more than doubled the oversight staff dedicated to regulating the oil and gas industry.
Pennsylvania is now producing more than 1 trillion cubic feet of gas and that production has helped to save gas and electricity consumers more than $1,000 per year. Such savings are important for nearly every family but are essential for families without jobs or living in poverty.
Over the years, I have seen how devastating living without heat or light can be, and I have supported policies to lessen the numbers of people, often children and the elderly, without the energy, utility, and water necessities of life. Energy poverty is grinding and life threatening. Pennsylvania should not tolerate it in our midst.
At a time when every job is precious, natural gas production has generated tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. It has lifted some out of economic peril or poverty. It has created wealth for landowners that enabled some to stay on the land and maintain farms, while posing environmental and operational challenges that must be met every day.
And it must be remembered that gas emits no soot, mercury, and lead as well as less carbon than coal or oil. The growing use of gas to make electricity is reducing substantially air pollution across America and Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania's air and waters are cleaner today than they have been in more than 120 years. And more progress must and will be made.
Though climate changing pollution globally is not heading in the right direction, and the denial of the science is irresponsible, progress is being made in the US, where carbon emissions have been rolled back to levels seen nearly 15 years ago. In fact, many environmental and energy trends are heading in a positive direction, thanks to work of so many in and outside government over decades.
Energy is also essential to our economy and the quality of life of our citizens. Our electricity and gas bills are lower in constant dollars than they were 10 or more years ago, though oil prices stand as an important exception to affordable energy pricing. Ending foreign oil imports in 10 or less years is a vital, achievable goal for our national and economic security
All of my work has involved the tremendous support of so many great colleagues and would not have been possible without them. I cannot thank enough a very long list of people.
The progress made is a tribute to their lives and contributions.