Hundreds of individuals from across Pennsylvania convened at the State Capitol Tuesday to advocate for action on climate change and the increased deployment of energy efficiency, wind and solar power.
The “Climate and Clean Energy Lobby Day” was hosted by the Clean Power PA Coalition, a diverse network of environmental, public health, faith, outdoor and civic groups and clean energy businesses, which support the development of a Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
The day of more than 100 legislative meetings began with a rally including environmental advocates, health professionals, local residents and more.
“Hundreds of Pennsylvanians have trekked to Harrisburg to take back the Capitol from polluters for the Climate Majority,” said Adam Garber, field director for PennEnvironment and an organizer of the event. “They are here on behalf of the millions of parents, anglers, students, faith leaders, business owners and millions more to build a clean energy future. And, we won’t let the polluters stop us.”
“While the vast majority of scientists agree that worldwide manmade climate change is a settled issue, the same cannot be said for many legislators, who want to delay Pennsylvania’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan,” said Rep. Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery), a member of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “We cannot tread water on this issue; we must move forward and work to tamp down on our greenhouse gas emissions. And the only real hope for doing so is the Clean Power Plan.”
Climate change is expected to have dramatic impacts in Pennsylvania, according to Penn State University’s 2015 Climate Impacts Assessment Report.
Worsened air quality including smog pollution exacerbated by hotter summers will likely cause more asthma attacks and can even lead to early death. Missed days of school and work and increased hospitalizations may also occur due to the health impacts of poor air quality.
Exposure to new insect-borne diseases will be the likely result of warmer winters, with possible devastating impacts on agriculture in the state. And extreme weather including more severe storms could impact electrical grid reliability, while increased flooding could threaten the supply of safe drinking water.
Gov. Wolf has committed to develop a State Plan for compliance that reduces power plant pollution by 32 percent by 2030 under the Clean Power Plan.
Climate and Clean Energy Day participants urged legislators to support a strong State Plan to protect Pennsylvania’s environment, economy and the health of its residents. Action on climate change will also save consumers money on energy costs and create jobs in the fields of clean energy and energy efficiency.
“Climate change is a public health challenge that demands action,” said Hannah Ryan, a pediatric nurse, member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and PennEnvironment volunteer. “Air pollution exacerbated by climate change can have dangerous impacts upon our entire population, but children are especially vulnerable.”
Sergeant Gerald Brown is a Vietnam War veteran, Purple Heart recipient, father of 12, grandfather of 30 and great-grandfather, who lives in Philadelphia. He spoke about the disproportionate impacts of climate change on minority and low-income communities, which are more likely to live near sources of pollution such as power plants.
“I am concerned for the future of my own grandchildren, some of whom have asthma, as well as for communities of color who will suffer more from climate change and have fewer resources to adapt,” Brown said.
“Many frontline fossil fuel extraction communities economies are dominated by the mining and fracking industries,” said Veronica Coptis, deputy director of the Center for Coalfield Justice in Southwest Pennsylvania. “The Clean Power Plan will not only help clean up our environment but provide resources for economic transition and job retraining for displaced workers. This is absolutely essential for people like me who wish to live and raise families in the coalfields.”
Court Gould, Executive Director of Sustainable Pittsburgh remarked, “Smart business leaders understand that climate change poses significant risk and uncertainty to the long-term sustainability of their enterprise. A business that abdicates responsibility for addressing climate change is bound to be marginalized in the marketplace. Tackling climate change presents real opportunity for innovation, growth and competitive advantage.”
The Climate and Clean Energy event took place as Pennsylvania’s General Assembly advances a broad package of legislation which undermines critical environmental, clean energy and energy efficiency programs, including Senate Bill 1195 (White-R-Indiana) to delay a State Plan for climate action.
This is despite the overwhelming support expressed by Pennsylvanians for a State Plan during an extensive public comment period in 2015 which included listening sessions held throughout the state.
In fact, eight in ten Pennsylvanians (82 percent) support the development of a State Plan to reduce carbon pollution and increase the use of clean energy and energy efficiency, according to bipartisan polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies.
Additional bills moving through the legislature would undo updated Chapter 78 oil and gas drilling standards to protect public health and natural resources (Senate Bill 279 (Hutchinson-R-Venango)); undermine funding for energy efficiency programs required by Act 129 (Senate Bill 805 (Boscola-D-Lehigh)); and allow legislators to block environmental safeguards via Pennsylvania’s regulatory process (Senate Bill 562 (Gordner-R-Columbia).
“Climate change is not going away and protecting our health and environment should be an immediate priority. We need a plan that protects citizens today as well as future generations of Pennsylvanians,” said Garber.
For more information, visit the Clean Power PA Coalition website.For information on state activities related to climate change and clean power, visit DEP’s Climate Change webpage.