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April 22, 2024 10:52 pm

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Mastriano proposes bill to combat ‘chemtrails’ rooted in conspiracy theory and climate science

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Peter Hall, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
March 22, 2024

A state senator who was the 2022 GOP nominee for Pennsylvania governor has proposed legislation to outlaw experimental weather modification techniques falsely associated with the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory.

The false belief that condensation trails left by high flying aircraft are actually trails of chemicals released by the government for nefarious reasons has become conflated with techniques being explored to reduce the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the atmosphere.

In a memo seeking support for his bill, Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) said new technology and a proliferation of weather modification patents “owned by a combination of Federal Government Agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, and large multinational corporations” have brought forward the need to update Pennsylvania’s law.

Mastriano notes the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees the “right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”

“Spraying unknown, experimental, and potentially dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere without the consent of the people of Pennsylvania is a clear violation of Article 1, Section 27 of the PA Constitution,” Mastriano’s memo states.

 Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, joins GOP colleagues in Fulton County, Pennsylvania on July 23, 2021, to respond to decertification of voting machines. (Screenshot)

The legislation would ban the release of substances within the borders of Pennsylvania to affect the temperature, weather or intensity of sunlight. It would mirror legislation that passed in the Tennessee Senate on Wednesday. 

Mastriano, an election denier who lost his 2022 gubernatorial bid to Gov. Josh Shapiro, has made repeated references to the chemtrail conspiracy theory on social media. 

In a November Facebook post with a photo of condensation trails in the sky above Chambersburg, Mastriano wrote, “I have legislation to stop this … Normal contrails dissolve / evaporate within 30-90 seconds.”

Shortly after his loss to Shapiro in 2022 Mastriano posted on Twitter — now called “X” — four photos of condensation trails above his district. In a reply to his own tweet, he linked to an article detailing a proposal to distribute reflective material in the atmosphere to reflect more of the sun’s energy back into space, implying the two are linked.

Calls to Mastriano’s offices in the state Capitol and Chambersburg were not returned Friday.

Condensation trails, or contrails for short, form when the hot moisture-laden exhaust from aircraft engines hits the frigid air at the altitudes where commercial and military jets cruise. The moisture condenses and becomes visible in the same way you can see your breath on a cold day. 

A claim among chemtrail believers is that condensation trails dissipate immediately and trails that persist consist of chemicals. The longevity of the trails depends on the amount of moisture already in the air, with drier air leading to shorter-lived contrails, according to the National Weather Service

Cloud seeding, in which particles of silver iodide are sprayed into clouds, has been used since the 1950s in attempts to induce precipitation or to prevent damage to crops from hail. The crystalline silver iodide particles attract water droplets which cluster together until they grow too heavy to stay in the air and fall to the ground as rain or snow. 

It is employed by several western states in efforts to alleviate drought and can increase precipitation from storm clouds by 5% to 15%, the Associated Press reported.

The practice has spawned its own chemtrail-adjacent conspiracy theory, in which California residents blamed flooding and landslides during a pair of February storms on a local water authority’s cloud seeding pilot program. The agency said there was no cloud seeding during the record-setting rainfall, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In Pennsylvania, a 1967 law inspired by unauthorized attempts to suppress hail in central Pennsylvania requires anyone who wants to try cloud seeding to get a license from the state Department of Agriculture. 

The department’s Weather Modification Board has never received a license application and has never investigated unauthorized cloud seeding, Deputy Press Secretary Jay Losiewicz said in an email.

The process referred to in Mastriano’s tweet is even more experimental. Called solar geoengineering, it could provide a method to mask global warming as a result of accumulated greenhouse gasses. But if it is ever used on a large scale, there’s a risk of physical harm and socio-political impacts, according to Harvard University Applied Physics Professor David Keith, who leads a group researching the idea.

The group said on its website it is confident that there is no program testing solar geoengineering outdoors.

Mastriano’s memo cites a February Wall Street Journal article, claiming the newspaper had confirmed active field tests of the proposal in Israel and Australia, however the article states that the substances used in the tests are smoke and sea water.

“We are not now involved in outdoor experimentation, though we are indeed actively developing proposals for field experiments. This experiment will proceed only if it is conducted in a fully transparent and public manner, and only if it passes a comprehensive independent safety review,” Keith said in a response to letters and emails from people concerned about chemtrails.  

On the subject of chemtrails, Keith said there’s little evidence to support the conspiracy theory, with the main claim being that “airplane contrails look different.” Keith added that if such a program existed, it would require a vast operation and tens of thousands of people. Keeping it secret would be impossible.

“If such a program was intended to cause harm to their fellow citizens — as is alleged by people who believe in the chemtrails conspiracy — then people working in the program would have very strong personal motivations to reveal it,” Keith said.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.