Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Op-Ed: RGGI - A More Mindful Approach To PA Agriculture And Climate Change

By Michael Kovach, PA Farmers Union

This op-ed first appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 30, 2020--

In early December, I was one of nearly 500 Pennsylvanians who testified at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s virtual public hearings with respect to the Commonwealth’s prospective participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-invest program that has successfully cut carbon emissions from the electric power sector in 10 Northeastern states. [Read more here.]
Immediately, the DEP proved that it not only talked the talk, it walked the walk: Holding these hearings virtually meant Pennsylvanians could have their say — online or via phone — without adding to the collective carbon footprint and, even more important, putting themselves or others at risk in a public gathering during a pandemic.

My perspective on Pennsylvania linking to RGGI is that of a sustainable, grass-based livestock farmer from Mercer County and board member of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union. 

A geologist and Earth scientist by education, prior to becoming a farmer in 2008, I was a partner in a small natural gas-producing company that produced natural gas from the terrigenous Devonian sandstones in southwest Pennsylvania. 

Safe to say, I see the intersection of energy and ecosystems from all sides.

For family farmers such as myself, who feed our commonwealth in good times and bad, the realities of our changing climate are undeniable and seem worse with each new season. 

Extremes are continually becoming more extreme. Annual precipitation is coming in fewer, heavier events. Planting and harvesting seasons are shifting. 

Pest populations affecting both crops and livestock are exploding, and our ability to produce the food that feeds Pennsylvanians is being challenged — just when we need it most. RGGI is an important step toward the ultimate end goal of mitigating the climate crisis already threatening our food supply.

RGGI also promises to bolster an already rapidly growing renewable energy industry in our Commonwealth, providing jobs and income in rural and urban areas alike. 

By some estimates, new job growth in renewable energy has outstripped new jobs in the more conventionally sourced energy sector by 2-to-1 over the past couple of years.

Farmers are taking advantage of the shift in energy generation by placing solar panels on dormant and other lands. 

The revenues generated by this new “cash crop” are significant: A 2017 report found that in states like North Carolina, solar accounts for 30 percent of the income on an average farm.

Given the tone of the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, paired with Gov. Tom Wolf’s obvious and ongoing commitment to a greener, brighter future, Pennsylvania is well positioned to become a leader in renewable energy jobs, much as it did in lower-carbon, natural gas-fired electric production. 

As part of any such initiative to shift away from traditional fossil fuels, care should be taken to ensure those Pennsylvanians displaced by such a shift — including coal miners and coal-fired power plant workers — are well positioned and trained to move into the new economy seamlessly.

In 2017, the National Farmers Union became the first major agricultural membership organization to adopt policy acknowledging the anthropogenic nature of climate change. 

Our policy acknowledges the need for a massive reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases from all sectors of the economy, but it also acknowledges the role that a more mindful approach to agriculture can play in its mitigation.

Family farmers throughout the Commonwealth are endorsing Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and encouraging the DEP and other agencies to continue to keep agriculture at the table for future initiatives. 

It is the only industry currently capable of not only participating in reducing emissions, but also sequestering the “legacy” carbon that would still be causing trouble in our atmosphere for years to come, even if emissions were to drop to zero tomorrow.

[Visit DEP’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative webpage to learn more about the proposal.  Public comments on the proposal are due January 14. Read more here.]

Michael Kovach is the vice president of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union.


-- Rachel McDevitt: PA’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Goals Set To Flatline Next Year, Unless Legislature Acts

-- Rachel McDevitt: Top Energy/Environment Story Of 2020: The Fight Over RGGI

-- Allegheny Front: State Program Is Helping Boroughs, Towns Plan For Climate Change

Related Articles This Week:

-- Better Path Coalition Asks For Removal Of Rep. Metcalfe As Chair Of House Environmental Committee After He Calls Veterans Fighting Climate Change Traitors

-- Op-Ed: We Must Cut Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuels To Zero By 2050 To Prevent Passing A Point From Which We Cannot Adapt - Richard Whiteford

-- Op-Ed: Climate Change Is Affecting Us All In Pennsylvania, Especially In Philadelphia - By Joseph Otis Minott, Clean Air Council

Related Articles - Climate:

-- PA Will Experience 42% More Days Of Extremely Heavy Precipitation By 2050 Due To Climate Change

-- Clean Power PA Coalition: 95% Of Commenters At EQB Hearing On Proposed Power Plant Carbon Pollution Reduction Regulation Hearings Supported The Proposal

-- Sen. Costa Introduces Bill To Reduce Carbon Pollution From Power Plants, Protect Communities, Workers Already Affected By Changing Energy Economy

-- Report: Clean Energy Is A Leading Creator Of New Quality Jobs In Pennsylvania

-- DEP Senate Budget Hearing: Coal-Fired Power Plants Are Closing Without RGGI, We Have To Confront This Issue, Help Workers, Communities

-- Op-Ed: Keep Pennsylvania’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative On Track - Rep. Greg Vitali 

-- Op-Ed: DEP Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Is Not About Climate Change - Sen. Langerholc & Rep. Rigby

-- Op-Ed: PA Needs More Jobs, RGGI Will Create Them By Investing In Energy Efficiency - Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance

[Posted: December 30, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner