Earlier this week, I spent some time in Lawrence County. On Monday evening I wrapped up my day by joining local farmers and constituents at the Lawrence County Fair. As I walked through the fair, I was able to meet many of the dedicated farmers and youth involved in this annual summer tradition. I saw firsthand the variety of exhibits that showcase the ingenuity and ongoing growth of the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania. I was particularly impressed with the Mobile Ag Education Science Lab. This lab travels to schools across the state, educating students on the agriculture industry. By providing a hands on experience, children are making the important connection between agriculture and the food on their table.
On Tuesday, I visited Ellwood City to see the work they are doing with Appalachian Lighting Systems Inc. Appalachian Lighting is a local manufacturer of high-efficiency LED fixtures. Through the use of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Ellwood City was able to increase their orders through Appalachian Lighting resulting in significant energy efficiency improvements for the Borough. This partnership is an impressive example of how these funds can be utilized to stimulate business, encourage cost saving improvements, and foster economic growth. My father visited Ellwood City often, and I know he too would be proud of Ellwood City and the great work they are doing.
Yesterday I visited DonJon Shipbuilding in Erie with Congresswoman Dahlkemper and saw firsthand the exciting new manufacturing opportunities that are developing there. We not only viewed current construction on a tugboat, but also learned about a prototype energy efficient hydro tug that DonJon is developing with General Electric. These projects hold the potential of bringing many high paying jobs back to Erie and both the Congresswoman and I are proud to welcome DonJon to Pennsylvania and support its efforts.
Later in the day we also visited Fairview Swiss Cheese in Mercer to view an anaerobic digester. This technology converts waste products from the facility into energy to power the plant. This is exactly the type of public/private partnership that we need to see more of in Pennsylvania. It is an excellent example of the type of innovation that will help our country wean itself of its dependence on fossil fuels.
I'd like to commend and congratulate Crayola on the opening of a brand-new 15 acre solar farm at their world headquarters. Joining with two other Pennsylvania companies, UGI Energy Services Inc. of Reading and PPL Corporation of Allentown, Crayola is helping Pennsylvania manufacturing go green with the help of money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The 1.9-megawatt solar farm will generate enough power to make over 1 billion crayons per year! Now Crayola can proudly boast that their crayons are "made with sunshine."
Children came from across the country to help plug the solar farm into the Crayola factory. These children won a nationwide contest to envision a greener world. I am glad to know that Crayola crayons, markers, and colored pencils, helped these children harness their own creative talents.
This project is an example of the change we can make when we all work together. The Recovery Act provided a $1.5 million grant to fund a large portion of the solar project, and the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, which I voted for, provided tax credits for 30% of the capital investment. Because of these incentives, Crayola plans to expand the solar farm over the next few years and create many more jobs in Pennsylvania.
Today marks the 45th anniversary of the creation of Medicare. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965 in order to ensure that American older citizens would have access to the quality, affordable health care they need. Medicare has grown into one of the most successful health programs ever created, currently insuring over 44 million Americans, and helping to reduce poverty among older citizens by two thirds since its inception. Medicare has become a cornerstone of the American healthcare system and has greatly enhanced the security of America’s older citizens.
As we celebrate this great program’s 45th anniversary, we need to look at what the Affordable Care Act has done to improve Medicare. This new law strengthens Medicare through improved treatment and outcomes for older citizens. Effective immediately the new law will help reduce the costs of prescription drugs by giving beneficiaries who fall into the Part D “donut hole” a $250 rebate check, and will provide a 50% discount on certain prescriptions if beneficiaries reach the coverage gap. In 2011, beneficiaries will also be able to receive free preventative care screenings as well as a yearly physical. These and other important changes will help older citizens stay healthy and receive high quality medical care.
On the 45th anniversary of this great program which has helped to safeguard America’s older citizens, we applaud these improvements as they will help our older citizens get affordable and quality care. Today a new commercial celebrating Medicare’s 45th anniversary narrated by Andy Griffith was released. Take a moment to watch this commercial and see how the changes we made will help you.
Last week in Canonsburg, PA, 1,200 people attended an EPA public listening session on concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing during natural gas drilling. Since the U.S. Senate was in session and I was unable to attend the event, I asked a staff member from my Pittsburgh office to attend and read my statement on the EPA’s proposed study of hydraulic fracturing and potential impacts on drinking water.
Pennsylvania has a history of environmental hardships, most created in previous generations when federal regulations promoting responsible natural resource development did not exist. For example, Pennsylvania has old natural gas wells that remain uncapped and leak methane into homes. Pennsylvania has acid mine drainage that costs millions of dollars every year to remediate. There are lessons contained within these examples from which we need to learn.
Last June, I introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, because I believe if the development of the Marcellus Shale is carried out in a manner that protects the environment and human health, then it will enhance our State’s economy and increase our Nation’s energy security. The FRAC Act requires public disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracturing process and requires that hydraulic fracturing be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It is my hope that the FRAC act will keep the environment and the people of Pennsylvania safe, while fully developing the great opportunity that the Marcellus Shale has to offer.