Saturday, January 29, 2022

PG Guest Essay: Environmental Justice And Opportunity In Pennsylvania - A Thriving, Resilient, Clean Energy Future

By Elena Weissmann,
Vote Solar & Annie Regan, ReImagine Appalachia - PennFuture


This guest essay originally appeared in the January 28, 2022 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette--


Every Pennsylvanian has the right to clean air, safe drinking water and a healthy home, but not every Pennsylvanian has access to these basic rights. 

We can set Pennsylvania on a course toward a thriving, resilient, clean energy future — but we need our elected representatives to lead with urgency and political courage.

Environmental justice means that every person deserves a safe, healthy environment in which to live — regardless of race, wealth or ZIP code. 

In Pennsylvania and around the country, however, we are far from meeting that standard.

Systemic racism and disparate wealth distribution mean that communities of color and low-income communities are more likely than whiter and more affluent ones to live near polluting facilities, to be forced to drink unsafe drinking water and to experience respiratory health issues like asthma.

Right now, nearly one in three Pennsylvanians live in an environmental justice area: a region in which 20 percent of residents are at or below the federal poverty level and/​or more than 30 percent are people of color.

To see these discrepancies in action, you only need to look as far as PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization headquartered in Norristown, Pa. 

PJM coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity across 13 states — and consistently overspends on toxic and expensive fossil fuel generation.

A stunning new report shows that 58 percent of fossil fuel facilities in PJM’s network are located within a mile of an environmental justice community, and 36 percent of fossil fuel facilities are located directly within these communities. 

In other words, Pennsylvanians who shoulder the heaviest energy burdens suffer the most harm as a result of our aging energy system. 

It’s a vicious — and literally toxic — cycle.

But we don’t have to continue further down our current path of injustice and disparity. 

Pennsylvania has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in energy equity, environmental justice and a booming clean energy workforce.
Together, we can make sure that every Pennsylvanian can breathe clean air, have a good job and put down roots for the future.

One path to securing this just and vibrant future runs through the statehouse. 

In October, State Reps. Donna Bullock, Malcolm Kenyatta and Chris Rabb and Sen. Vincent Hughes introduced legislation that would codify the Office of Environmental Justice and Environmental Justice Advisory Board — making them permanent, regardless of who is in the executive branch. 

The legislation will also increase transparency and public input before polluting facilities are built or expanded in overburdened communities.

For too long, low income and BIPOC communities have been methodically excluded from conversations about energy resource planning, and this legislative package saves these underrepresented communities a desperately needed seat at the table. 

To move Pennsylvania away from its reliance on fossil fuels, we must center the needs of our communities who have disproportionately borne their impact.

In addition to Harrisburg, we’re looking to our representatives on Capitol Hill to bring meaningful investments in climate justice back home to Pennsylvania.

One big hurdle has already been cleared: The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will funnel $20 billion to Pennsylvania over the next several years, including funds for low-income home weatherization, and the reclamation of Pennsylvania’s abandoned mines.

State agencies, including Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission, will have a significant role to play in determining how exactly these funds are allocated. 

As the body responsible for oversight of Pennsylvania’s electric utilities, the PUC has an opportunity and responsibility to put equity at the center of utility investments.

As investor-owned utilities apply for federal funding to modernize their operations, the PUC must ensure that overburdened communities see proportionate benefits in the transition.

Finally, Congress must put people over politics and pass the Build Back Better Act, which would make our country’s largest-ever investment in carbon reduction and bring us closer than ever to obtaining an environmentally just society.

For Pennsylvania and mining towns all across the Appalachian region, this legislation would transform public health and spur a just transition for the workers most at risk of being left behind.

The future our families and communities deserve is within reach.

With bold action from our elected leaders, we can create good jobs in 21st-century industries and ensure a healthier future for Pennsylvanians of every color, creed and background.


-- PG Guest Essay: Environmental Justice And Opportunity In Pennsylvania

-- PG - Laura Legere: Last Coal-Fired Power Plant In Allegheny County To Be Demolished, Redeveloped 

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Sale Of Last Coal-Fired Power Plant In Allegheny County Good Sign For Post-Coal Economy

-- PG - Laura Legere: Push Is On To Switch To Energy Efficient Electrical Appliances; Each Flame Fed By Natural Gas, Propane Or Oil In Furnaces, Water Heaters, Stoves A Small Source Of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

-- ​​Advocating For Solar Energy Projects On Abandoned Mine Lands - By Kathy Cook, PA League of Women Voters, Environmental Policy Director

-- At The Request Of The Natural Gas Industry, House Republicans Pass Bill To Stop Communities From Adopting All-Electric Building Codes 

-- Republicans Move Bills Out Of Senate Committee To Redefine Water Pollution, Sell Off State Clean Energy Credits 

-- Guest Essay: The Empty Rhetoric Of Delaware River Watershed Fracking Ban - Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) [Information on conventional drilling wastewater is inaccurate, according to the industry’s own waste reports.  Yaw supports efforts to make road spreading of conventional wastewater legal.]

[Posted: January 29, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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