I was very disappointed this week to learn that - due to the Obama administration's policies - the company FirstEnergy is deactivating coal-fired power plants in Fayette and Washington counties and leaving hundreds out of work. These unemployed Pennsylvanians are unfortunate casualties in President Obama's 'war on coal,' which I will continue to fight against in the Senate.
Coal is a domestically sourced, low-cost form of energy which helps sustain jobs for Pennsylvania and beyond. Over the decades, coal-fired plants also have gone to impressive lengths to reduce emissions. Nevertheless, the Obama administration continues to implement policies that will make energy more expensive for hard-working Pennsylvanians while destroying good, family-sustaining jobs.
It is ironic that this announcement comes just two weeks after the President's 'war on coal' remarks which were a rehash of the same old bad ideas we have heard for four and a half years. From making coal-fired electricity prohibitively expensive; to forcing taxpayers to subsidize inefficient energy; to burning more corn in gas tanks, the President continues to advocate policies that raise prices for consumers and eliminate jobs.
Opening The Door To Natural Gas Production In Northeastern PA
I asked the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to finalize natural gas development standards so that Pennsylvanians can boost the economy, create jobs and cultivate a new energy source.
The DRBC, a federal-interstate compact created in 1961 to regulate water usage along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, has failed to establish regulations to allow for water to be used for natural gas development. This procrastination has become a de facto moratorium on natural gas production and related economic activities in northeastern Pennsylvania at a time when unemployment in the area is still well above the national average. This moratorium is particularly confusing, as a similar federal-interstate compact with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission issued regulations allowing for natural gas production in 2008.
My letter to DRBC Commissioners and the executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission highlighted the inaction of the DRBC regarding natural gas development and the need to promote economic development in Pennsylvania.
Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg
Last week, it was my honor to visit hallowed ground and commemorate the 150th anniversary of the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg. For three days, on these quiet hills and picturesque fields, two armies engaged in fierce combat to determine whether we would be one country or two.
While visiting the site, I attended the opening of the new Seminary Ridge Museum, which will educate the public on different aspects of the terrible battle and the moral, civic and spiritual debates of the Civil War era.
Just days before my visit, the Senate passed my resolution with Sen. Bob Casey to encourage Americans to come to Gettysburg to discover, study and appreciate our history and those who made it fighting there.
I am also working with Sen. Casey to pass the bipartisan Gettysburg National Military Park Expansion Act, which would include the historic Railroad Station and the southern end of the battlefield as part of the park.
Hearing From A Franklin County Business About Excessive Regulations
It was great to visit Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe Inc. in Chambersburg - one of Franklin County's largest employers - to hear concerns over excessive government regulations. This is something I focus on a lot in Washington and I was grateful to get first-hand input from a family-owned business that's still doing well but dealing with burdensome, unnecessary mandates.
Expanding Consumer Access to Accurate Medical Price & Quality Information
I have asked the government watchdog agency known as the Government Accountably Office (GAO) to examine consumers' access to accurate medical pricing information. Improving transparency and understanding about health care costs and quality can save consumers money, help patients get better treatment and improve our health care system.
A Washington Post article published earlier this year cited data showing that costs to consumers for common tests and procedures such as X-rays and blood tests, can vary by as much as seven-fold. These wide variations in prices often result in unexpected out-of-pocket costs for patients.
In my bipartisan letter to the head of the GAO, Sen. Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. Shaheen (D-NH) and I asked for an investigation of consumer accessibility to meaningful information on health care costs and quality. Accurate information about the pricing of medical services can help consumers make more informed, value-based decisions about their health care and reduce overall health care spending.
It is imperative that consumers have reliable information on health care costs and quality. Clearer, readily available information empowers Medicare beneficiaries and patients to shop for value and obtain high-quality care.
Hosting A Jobs Roundtable In Luzerne County
Over the Fourth of July, I traveled across Pennsylvania and heard from families, businesses and community leaders. At Misericordia University in Luzerne County, I participated in a jobs roundtable with local business leaders.