The ongoing unprovoked atrocity on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime against the people and government of Ukraine has shocked the conscience of the world.

The daily news clips of women and children huddled in subway tunnels turned into makeshift underground shelters, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky courageously leading his people, and so many families trying to protect their homes and loved ones is a daily reminder of the unnecessary evil being committed against innocent people.

Like all Americans who believe in the sovereignty of nations and the right to internal national self-determination, I condemn the actions of Putin and his rubber-stamp government against the innocent people of Ukraine.

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I hope you will join me in praying for the people of Ukraine, its government, the people defending their country and families, and our world leaders as they make decisions about how to stop this attack on freedom and sovereignty.

Clearly the people of Pennsylvania stand with the people of Ukraine and against this unprovoked Russian aggression.

Recently, news was made when the Liquor Control Board pulled Russian-made vodka from its shelves, something I commend. As a symbol of our solidarity with the people of Ukraine, the Capitol was lit with the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

But I think it is time we move beyond symbolism and get to concrete action. We must realize what Pennsylvania can do to hold Putin and his oligarch allies accountable and apply needed pressure to stop this attack on the viability of Eastern Europe.

Earlier this week, I began circulating a co-sponsorship memo for legislation that will divest Pennsylvania of any Russian financial holdings we may be invested in.

I am glad to see the State Treasurer and our pension systems act on their own to review investments and work toward divestment. However, we need to make sure legislation is in place to ensure they have all the necessary tools to divest Pennsylvania of Russian financial holdings and that the Commonwealth is not contributing to the financial success of Putin and wealthy Russian oligarchs.

We also must have a robust domestic energy portfolio.

Our state and national leaders need to get out of the way of our home-grown energy potential and allow Pennsylvania to once again be a leader in our nation’s energy independence, which will make  our country and our allies stronger and safer.

Neighboring state leaders have done such a poor job of incentivizing domestic gas production and delivery that it is at times more cost-effective for Pennsylvania’s neighboring states to import Russian natural gas rather than purchase natural gas made right here in Pennsylvania.

The European Union, the largest worldwide importer of natural gas, gets over 40 percent of its supply from Russia.

To have people in the United States and Europe so reliant on Russian energy products when we have the potential right under the feet of Pennsylvanians to free the world from its reliance on these bad actors is a failure of leadership. 

While we cannot change the global energy market overnight, there are steps we can start taking immediately to change the game and shift energy dependence from Russia to the free world.

We need to make sure we are doing all we can to increase production and use our own domestic fuel sources, including Pennsylvania natural gas.

Pennsylvania can lead our nation and the world to a more secure brand of freedom with the assets under our feet.

Keep in mind, Pennsylvania is the second largest natural gas producer in the country, only behind Texas. On any given day, Pennsylvania produces nearly twenty percent of the entire nation’s natural gas supply.

Additionally, the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia is third in natural gas production worldwide.

Why is this important? With gas prices and inflation skyrocketing, one of the greatest incentives for people to make products and create jobs is lowering the cost of energy. Using domestic energy products to lower the cost of energy can be combined with other clean energy initiatives.

Prior to the pandemic and the move to national Democratic leadership, Pennsylvania was a lead contributor to our nation’s energy independence.

The more our state and federal leaders continue to oppose Pennsylvania energy, the more we will embolden and finance people like Vladimir Putin at your expense with the higher prices of energy and commodities.

Pennsylvania can lead our nation and the world to a more secure brand of freedom with the assets under our feet.

American energy independence led by Pennsylvania gas production means national security, not just for America, but democracies throughout the world.

Pennsylvania State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff is the current Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and represents the 171st District comprising parts of Mifflin and Centre counties.

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