Corbett woos energy sector, seeks to draw firms, investors

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The audience for the state energy plan that Gov. Tom Corbett issued Tuesday is "business decision-makers," specifically those who don't live in Pennsylvania but might be looking to bring companies here.

The Republican governor titled the 82-page document "Energy=Jobs" and imbued it with the strong message that Pennsylvania is open for business.

It's not a plan in the conventional sense; it doesn't set goals such as lowering greenhouse gas emissions or consuming more of one source and less of another, although it does encourage shifting more vehicles to run on natural gas, and there are no quantifiable metrics by which to measure energy success.

"The plan we have assembled does not have recommendations for action items," said Patrick Henderson, Mr. Corbett's energy executive. "We approached this as an opportunity to talk about all that has actually been done to date, and advertising that from a jobs creation standpoint -- with primary audiences being job creators, capital investors, those who may be considering Pennsylvania for investment.

"The goal really is to whet the appetite of those folks, and encourage them to come talk to us."

Economic development is the most common objective of state energy plans, according to a review of such documents by the National Association of State Energy Officials.

Looking at 39 state energy plans crafted by the end of 2011, the national group found that plans written before 2010 tended to emphasize energy efficiency, reliability and decreased greenhouse gas emissions. But those written after 2010, perhaps because of the impact of the recession, leaned more in the direction of job creation and economic development.

Mr. Corbett's plan promotes an "all of the above and below" energy policy.

It gives the most prominent play to oil and gas and the state's shale resources. It also expresses support for "advancements in coal technology to reduce emissions while retaining jobs in Pennsylvania's mining industry," which pleased the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance. The state trade group issued a statement praising Mr. Corbett's inclusion of coal as a staple in the state's energy future.

The document pledges to "continue to support market-based decisions" for renewable energy. Mr. Corbett has opposed subsidies for renewable energy.

Mr. Henderson said the administration decided not to include a legislative or regulatory wish list because the target audience -- potential investors -- may think that Pennsylvania won't be as ready for them until those issues are solved.

At times, the plan relies on old data. For example, it cites 2010 figures to show that coal accounts for about half of electricity generated in the state while natural gas comprises about 11 percent.

During the first nine months of 2013, coal had slipped to 40 percent and natural gas doubled to 22 percent of electricity generation in Pennsylvania.

Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.


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