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Among the least impactful actions an elected body in politics or government can take is passage of a resolution.
Generally considered toothless statements of intent, resolutions are rarely worth the paper they're printed on, or the thought bubbles they're conceived in.Workers move a section of well casing into place at a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site near Burlington, Pa., in Bradford County. Some Pennsylvania Democrats worry that natural gas drilling isn't as safe as politicians and lobbyists claim.AP Photo/Ralph Wilson, 2010
That, however, has not been the case with a recent resolution passed by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party State Committee. That statement of intent controversially calls for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state until environmental and health concerns are more clearly addressed.
The most provocative resolutions might warrant day-long news cycle lifespans, but forces within the state party have curiously refused to let the fracking moratorium resolution lie.
Approached by PennLive shortly after the June vote, several prominent Pennsylvania Democrats including former Gov. , and gubernatorial candidates and denounced the resolution.
And in recent weeks, pockets of state House and Senate Democrats have also sent letters to state party Chairman Jim Burn urging him to revisit the issue.
Their stated intent in seeing the vote overturned makes it clear that the resolution is far from typical.
This one involves a multi-billion dollar industry that has employed scores of commonwealth residents and funneled impact fees into municipal coffers around the state.
Even Consumer Energy Alliance, a Houston-based energy consumer advocacy group, has weighed in and called for elected commonwealth Democrats to state their position on the resolution.
The Democratic State Committee is a springboard to action and we didn't just want to let it pass without comment, said the group's Pittsburgh-based Mid-Atlantic Director Mike Butler.
But the crux of the comes from the powerful industry pursestrings that have become a major factor in Pennsylvania elections.
According to the government watchdog group Common Cause, the natural gas industry contributed million to Pennsylvania political candidates from 2000-2012, and spent another .7 million on in-state lobbying between 2007-2012.
That type of bank balance is at once salivating and terrifying to a former politician now engaged in lobbying and consulting such as Rendell, state lawmakers up for re-election next year such as the legislative Democrats who wrote to their state party chairman, and ambitious gubernatorial candidates such as Schwartz and McGinty.
Many of our candidates don't want the fracking interest money against them in their elections, said Brad Kirsch, a Bucks County state committeeman and resolution supporter.
Although Kirsch said he didn't expect fracking to be a vetting issue for the party's gubernatorial primary endorsement, he said he personally would not back a candidate who supports the practice.
When we make a resolution, that's a platform statement about who we are as a party and what our belief systems are, he added. If we're not a party about issues, why do I care who the heck we elect?
While the elected Democrats who see a downside to the resolution have reacted, many like Kirsch are taking the issue-oriented conflict as business as usual for a party renowned for its' elaborate deliberations.
But if the in-state disagreement hasn't embarrassed Pennsylvania Democrats, the clear contradiction with the leader of their party should.
In three days President Barack Obama will visit Scranton to garner grassroots support for his legislative agenda.
Part of his plan, according to a series of speeches since his 2013 State of the Union address, is to encourage natural gas development while the nation's renewable energy infrastructure is built-up.
That's clearly an incongruity pro-moratorium state committee members hadn't anticipated. But rather than be embarrassed, many commonwealth Democrats feel the internal disagreement is far tamer than discord occurring among Republicans.
If this was the biggest problem we have compared to the problems they have, I'll take it every day of the week, said Marcel Groen, the Montgomery County Democratic chairman and resolution opponent.
Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the entire episode is the inaction of Pennsylvania Republicans.
Gifted with what most would consider a political godsend, commonwealth Republicans skittish about have yet to embrace the inconsistency for political gain.
But savvy Corbett loyalists may be wising up.
After the Democratic rift made its way onto the web pages of the National Review Monday, Corbett Campaign Manager Mike Barley had a go at commonwealth Democrats Tuesday.
While Gov. Corbett is focused on expanding the opportunities hardworking Pennsylvanians have to gain employment in the natural gas industry, our opponents are focused on killing these good family sustaining jobs, Barley said in a release.
That inaction has been a let-off for elected Democrats well-aware of the potential damage the moratorium could have on them in coming election cycles.
Democrats have a reason to respond to [the resolution] because it's something that could be used against them when running against Republicans, said Michael Federici, a political scientist at Mercyhurst University in Erie.
Supporting the moratorium would be political suicide for any Pennsylvania Democratic candidate, Federici added.
The impact that fracking has on the Pennsylvania economy almost can't be over stated, he said. And it brings money into the state that could potentially hurt Democrats.
Where many Democratic elected officials and party members aspiring to public office see the harm the moratorium could bring, it doesn't appear to be a concern for pro-moratorium state committee members.
They say they understand the financial implications of the ban, but have greater dread for the environmental and health issues they claim have been glossed over.
We don't feel there's been enough information, so how am I supposed to declare it to be safe, said Kirsch, the Bucks County moratorium supporter. Let them make the case scientifically and openly.
If fracking supporters do that - possibly as soon as Sept. 27 when the state committee next meets - he says moratorium forces would be willing to change their position.
And that would make the 2014 election cycle much smoother for Democratic candidates wary of a natural gas industry knockout campaign contribution to their opponents.
I don't think their reasoning is the same as mine, Kirsch said of pro-fracking Democratic politicians. But I'm willing to go with a [gubernatorial] candidate who's for fracking if they can convince me that they're right.
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