Pennsylvania conservatives say they embrace clean, renewable energy at forum
As former Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley sees it, environmental friendly policies are concepts conservatives have allowed to slip away from the party platform in more recent times.
“We, as Republicans, we, as conservatives, can continue to let others define who we are, or we can step forward boldly,” Cawley, who served as lieutenant governor from 2011-15, said this week at the Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum in Harrisburg.
Cawley was one of multiple speakers, including former Homeland Security Secretary and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who discussed how conservatives in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the U.S. need to tout their commitment to environmentally friendly practices – including clean and renewable energy sources.
In the annals of history, Cawley said conservatives have a long track record of supporting green-friendly policies.
He pointed to such examples as the American Antiquities Act, which Republican Theodore Roosevelt passed into law in 1906, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, created in 1970 through Republican President Richard Nixon’s executive order.
Cawley and other speakers at the two-day symposium called on attendees, which included Pennsylvania legislators and their staffers, to take bold steps ahead to ensure conservatives have a voice in environmentally friendly policy.
Ridge, who served in the state’s top elected post from 1995-2001, was the keynote speaker at the symposium. Ridge currently runs a consulting firm, and his clients include the PCEF.
From his vantage point, Ridge said he believes Pennsylvania needs to maintain a diverse set of energy sources across the state – including, but not limited to, clean and renewable ones.
“I’m an all-in guy,” said Ridge, who was Pennsylvania’s 43rd governor. “We ought to have a portfolio of everything.”
While traditional and newer energy sources tend to be split down party lines, Ridge said he denounces such tendencies in today’s divisive political arena.
“It ought to be a bipartisan or apolitical issue,” he said. “Good science ought to be at the heart of good public policy. Neither party should claim that they are the heirs of one energy or another.”
From a competitive standpoint, Ridge called on state legislators in attendance to continue embracing all forums of energy.
“Why we would not be supportive of all forms of energy is beyond my wildest imagination,” Ridge said. “Let’s be smart, let’s be innovative, let’s be supportive. But as Republicans, let’s accept the reality that if we are blessed with multiple sources of energy – let’s embrace them all.”
Ridge also delved into the thorny issues of climate change and said, at some level, he does believe human interference can have an adverse impact on the environment. To that end, he said he is a staunch supporter of clean and renewable energy investment.
“It just seems to me that those dots connect naturally, and they connect naturally for conservatives,” he said.
Other speakers at the forum included Colin Finnegan, coalitions manager of the organization Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.
As an organization, Finnegan said CRES works with lawmakers to advance energy-related policy where it makes sense in a particular state or region.
“We reject the notion that one size fits all,” Finnegan said. “CRES frequently plays matchmaker, working to align Republican lawmakers with a partner across the aisle to advance a piece of legislation.”