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Advocacy group touts 'prosperity is possible'

Jun 29, 2023

What does a closed power plant in Indiana County and a very-much-open grocery store in Butler County have in common?

Both were part of Americans for Prosperity’s “Prosperity is Possible” RV Tour that is making 11 stops across the Commonwealth.

The stops that included the Homer City Generation LLC facility in Center Township Friday morning and will include the Sprankle’s Neighborhood Market in Saxonburg on Monday, are part of a nationwide campaign from AFP, a grassroots advocacy organization seeking to “empower every American to pursue their version of the American dream.”

Mary Beth Cirucci, coalitions director for AFP, said her organization is in favor of “an all-inclusive energy policy” providing “abundant and affordable energy.” That was the message she brought, along with American Oil & Gas Alliance Executive Director John Gallo Jr. and state Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana.

They would like to see a revitalized Homer City Generation LLC plant.

Gallo said the Canonsburg, Washington County, based American Oil & Gas Alliance is a partner of AFP.

“We need an all-inclusive power grid,” Gallo said, adding that the shutdown in Center Township — and others that may occur in future years because of government policy — “puts strains on additional energy sources.”

They said some examples of government policy are the Inflation Reduction Act on the federal level and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on the state level.

RGGI still is being battled in Pennsylvania courts. Elsewhere, Virginia published official notice of its decision to withdraw from RGGI. According to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Va., environmental groups are appealing that decision.

Gallo said Pennsylvania nets $80 million in revenue from energy, mostly from oil and gas. He said AFP favors U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 1 of 2023, “an act to lower energy costs by increasing American energy production, exports, infrastructure and critical minerals processing, by promoting transparency, accountability, permitting and production of American resources, and by improving water quality certification and energy projects, and for other purposes.”

Gallo said it also would promote development of critical metals in the United States, such as rare earths and minerals used in such products as lead-acid batteries and semi-conductors.

“The Senate refuses to run the bill,” Cirucci said. “Senators (Bob) Casey (D-Scranton) and (John) Fetterman (D-Braddock) have done nothing to support HR 1. At least they should debate the bill.”

Struzzi said there is no indication at this time about what will happen to the Homer City Generation facility that once produced 1,884 megawatts of electricity, which in turn could power two million homes, though its owners are keeping some staff on hand through October as part of its shutdown process.

“They don’t want to abandon the site,” Struzzi said. “The company appreciates the value of the plant.”

As does AFP. Cirucci said, “We are trying to educate the citizens of Pennsylvania on energy issues, on why energy costs are increasing while power plants are closing.”

Regionally, that could include plants near New Florence and Elderton.

At the end of 2028, the federal Environmental Protection Agency will require power plants to clean coal ash and toxic heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and selenium from plant wastewater before it is dumped into streams and rivers.

In this region, the Keystone Generating Station in Plumcreek Township, Armstrong County, and the Conemaugh Generating Station in West Wheatfield Township, Indiana County, both said they will stop using coal and retire all of their generating units by Dec. 31, 2028.

Gallo said it would take 14,000 acres of solar panels and 1,650 to 1,700 wind turbines, covering thousands of acres, for those alternative energy means to match what Homer City could produce.

A state AFP spokeswoman said the “Prosperity is Possible” campaign takes aim at federal policies that fail to expand freedom and opportunity, from burdensome regulations that artificially constrain domestic energy production to labor policies that make it harder for Americans to participate in the 21st century workforce, as well as fiscal policies in Washington that lead to inflation.

Christine Ravold of AFP said the first 50 customers between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. will receive $47 gift cards, which represents a 4.7 percent increase in the cost of food on the Consumer Price Index.

She said the Grocery Store Giveaway will feature music, free hotdogs provided by Sprankle’s, and “lots of free swag for customers willing to talk about solutions to our nation’s economic woes.”

Other stops include Canonsburg and Allentown, Lehigh County, on Tuesday; Harrisburg and Philadelphia on Wednesday; Pittsburgh and Washington on Thursday; Slippery Rock on Aug. 11 and Titusville on Aug. 12.

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