Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Is PA using federal windfall to plug worst wells?

Plus, why this moderate Republican is done with the Pa. legislature.

This is The Investigator, a free weekly newsletter with the top news from across Pennsylvania.
A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.

February 29, 2024 | spotlightpa.org
Abandoned wells, Elections 101, diversity programs, key races, home repairs, moderate retirement, voting machines, campaign question, and max security.

With the help of millions of dollars in federal funding, Pennsylvania has plugged more oil and gas wells in the last year and a half than it did in the past decade. 

Environmental advocates say this marks enormous progress, but they also caution that the money may not be going toward the worst wells and argue the plugging project needs better oversight.

Also this week, Spotlight PA launched its new Elections 101 series aimed at empowering and protecting Pennsylvanians against voting misinformation. The first story is focused on the types of voting machines used in Pennsylvania and the steps the state takes to keep them safe.

Finally: Before Penn State pledged more money for "promising" diversity efforts, some of their budgets had been cut.

We’re giving you a special preview of our “All Sun, No Shade” beach towel! This towel is available for a special pre-sale ahead of Sunshine Week in March, a time when we mark the importance of government transparency. Make sure to place your preorder ASAP!

Proceeds benefit Spotlight PA’s nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism that gets results for Pennsylvania.
>>BLACK WALL STREET: Join us on Thursday, March 7 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on the history of Harrisburg’s Black Wall Street, and the people and businesses hoping to preserve its legacy. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

» The state House races to watch as Democrats try to keep the majority

» Pennsylvanians say the East Palestine train derailment left them sick and without help

» Five takeaways from our event on the Whole-Home Repairs Program

Why this moderate Republican is done with the Pa. legislature

One of the Pennsylvania House's last moderate Republicans is leaving after 10 years, and he says a big reason for his impending departure is a “lack of humanity” in politics.

First elected in 2014 at the age of 26, Aaron Kaufer of Luzerne County has a reputation for embracing bipartisanship. 

He always wears an orange tie, a sartorial choice that references his independent approach as well as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. “Plus, I just don't look as good in purple as I do in orange,” he quipped of the color that more commonly represents political cooperation.

Legislatively, Kaufer is on the same page as his Republican colleagues on many issues. In the past year, he’s voted against stricter gun regulations, a $15 minimum wage (though he backed $12), and a proposal that would shield women from out-of-state abortion prosecutions.

But he’s also supported Democratic and good-government bills that other GOP members have rejected as they move further to the right. He is the lead sponsor of a bill that would prevent lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers, as well as one to allow community solar projects, and he cast one of only two GOP votes in favor of expanding LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.

Spotlight PA spoke with Kaufer about why he’s calling it quits and how he feels about the future of the chamber. Stephen Caruso, Spotlight PA

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Harrisburg is a place where sometimes it took 20 years to reach a committee chairmanship, and you're knocking on that door. Why are you leaving now, when it seems you're in a position where you could start a really fruitful legislative career?

Timing is everything. When I first got elected, I was a bachelor. I was single, I wasn't married, I didn't have any kids. I got used to doing the job as a single guy running around, running all over the state, you know, high energy. Doing whatever needs to be done. And I always operated that way. Now, here I am. I've been married for almost five years now. I have a two and a half year old at home. And it's just time for me to make sure I get my priorities right in life. 

Has the tone of Harrisburg at all impacted your decision? 


Do you care to elaborate?


I came in that era where there was that ability to say, “Hey, if we agree here, well, let's work on this together and let's find common ground. And we both realize you're not getting the whole loaf, but half a loaf isn't the worst thing.” And I think right now, because of social media, because of the 24/7 news cycle, it's easy to be a no on anything, but it takes work to be a yes. 

That's something that I prided myself on. I don't need to fully love what it is. But if you can view it as a step in the right direction, and work to being a yes, that's what I've tried to do. And it's harder to do that right now.

Do you think there is hope for bipartisanship within the General Assembly as it's currently constructed?

I do. I think there's a lot of newer members coming in who are trying to figure out ways to work with one another. The big issue is, I think people sometimes miss the humanity that we have in one another. We're all human. I don't think people naturally want to, you know in the political sense, go after one another. But that's sort of this mentality that we get from the 24/7 news cycle, this animosity between people.

But when you actually get to meet people as people … get to know their family, get to know what issues are important to them, even though you might disagree on a certain issue, you could agree with them on something else. And so I think that's what's important.

🤔 NEXT QUESTION: Are you on top of the news? Prove it with the latest edition of Great PA News Quiz: Vetting 2024’s voting machines, Harrisburg haggling, and the Beyoncé effect
» AP: County that let group access voting machines may have to pay PA

» CAP-STAR: Treasurer candidate raised money before registering

» CITY PAPERIsolation of girls raises solitary confinement concerns

» INQUIRER: Plan would house youth on max-security prison grounds

» MORNING CALL: LVHN sued for alleged child abuse misdiagnoses

» PENNLIVE: Taxpayers spent $1M filling legislative vacancies

» POLITICSPA: Dush seeks to add mental competency to voter rules

» WHYY: Mariner East causes more issues at Chester County park

» WPSU: Pharmacy closures in rural PA lead to unique workarounds

Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania. Donate to Spotlight PA now. The future of local journalism is in your hands.
Send your answers to riddler@spotlightpa.org.

WHAT IS IT? (Case No. 245): What has ten letters and starts with gas?

Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.

Last week's answer: 888 + 88 + 8 + 8 + 8 = 1000. Find last week's clue here.

Congrats to Michael H., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Beth T., Annette I., Joe S., Bruce B., Alan B., Roseanne D., Robert K., Dennis F., Bill G., Mary B., Ed M., and Seth Z.
Like The Investigator? Share it with a friend.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan & nonprofit newsroom producing investigative and public-service journalism that holds the powerful to account and drives positive change in Pennsylvania.

Copyright © Spotlight PA. All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
PO Box 11728
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728


This email was sent to: <<Email Address>>

You're receiving this email because you signed up for The Investigator. 

Receiving too many emails from Spotlight PA?

To change your newsletter subscriptions and frequency, you can update your preferences.

To stop receiving fundraising messages, you can update your preferences and select "Opt out of Fundraising."

To stop receiving ALL EMAILS from Spotlight PA, including all of our investigations and newsletters, you can completely unsubscribe here.