Thursday, November 29, 2018

Senate Climate Change Hearing: In The Absence Of Federal Leadership, PA Must Act

On November 28, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a hearing in Pittsburgh on local and state efforts to address climate change.
“In the absence of federal leadership on climate change, it is imperative that Pennsylvania continue to participate in cooperative efforts to stave off the catastrophic consequences of global warming,” said Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny). “We need to maintain efforts to keep Pennsylvania on track to combat climate change.”
Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh), who chairs the Committee, added, “Controlling carbon emissions and building a strong economy are not competing interests. There are numerous ways we can slow the devastating effects of climate change while strengthening and expanding our economy.”
Determined to engage state and local resources in the absence of federal support, Sen. Costa introduced legislation-- Senate Bill 15-- aimed at keeping Pennsylvania in compliance with the carbon emissions reduction goals of the accord.
Several bills and proposals were introduced to supplement existing environmental protection efforts included in the decade-old Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) and Energy Efficiency and Conservation law (Act 129).
George Hartenstein, DEP Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation, told the Committee, “Like every state in the country, Pennsylvania has already begun to experience adverse impacts from climate change, such as flooding, heat waves and drought.
“Based on the overwhelming scientific evidence, those harms are likely to increase in number and severity unless aggressive steps are taken to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”
Hartenstein said Pennsylvania has already reduced carbon dioxide emissions from power plants below the former EPA Clean Power Plan goal of 89.2 million tons.  In fact, he said 2018 emissions are projected to be 78.8 million tons, far below the goal.
[Note: Almost all of the reductions can be credited to the closure of coal-fired power plants and their replacement with natural gas-fired electric generation.]
Hartenstein outlined a series of steps Pennsylvania has taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and said a final 2018 Update to the state Climate Action Plan should be released in early 2019 that outlines more than 100 actions government, businesses and citizens can take to reduce those emissions.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald discussed the county’s efforts to embrace alternative and sustainable fuels and emerging strategies aimed at reducing carbon emissions. He mentioned goals aimed at reducing vehicular miles and transitioning to cleaner mass transit fuels as an example.
Grant Ervin, who serves as Pittsburgh’s chief resilience officer, said at the hearing the role of local governments to “provide for the health, safety and welfare of our residents.  Addressing the issues of climate change falls directly within that purview; and makes cities, boroughs and townships some of the best points of delivery to both mitigate carbon emissions as well as provide for the adaptation of our changing climate.”
Mandy Warner, senior manager for climate and air policy, Environmental Defense Fund, added, “The federal government’s leadership on climate may have stalled, but Pennsylvania has a significant opportunity to lead by setting a declining limit on carbon pollution, and creating the opportunity for flexible, market-based solutions to achieve the limit.”
Spokespersons for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce and coal industry pointed to the importance of fossil fuels toward economic development and business production goals.
They claimed that current alternative energy options do not provide the reliability and necessary volume of energy aimed at maintaining the state’s electricity and energy supply. While insisting that a zero-carbon emissions goal is currently unrealistic, they noted that technological advancement has enabled them to continually reduce carbon emissions.
Senators Boscola and Costa also said addressing climate change could spark investment in renewable energy initiatives and create new economic development and expansion opportunities.
“Infrastructure investment, technology development from research to manufacturing to sales, workforce development, educational programs and community development can all be part of an economic boom if we build our energy portfolio with a healthy mix of alternative fuels,” Sen. Costa said.
Joining Senators Costa and Boscola at the hearing were Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) and Senator-elect Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny).
Those presenting comments were (with links to written testimony)--
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing.
Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh) serves as chair of the Committee.  She can be contacted by sending email to: or calling 717-787-4236.   Questions should be directed to Seth Rolko, Executive Director, by sending email to: or calling 717-787-4236.
(Photo: Senators Boscola, Costa.)

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