Advocates push for Pa. to take action on climate change in a virtual rally
More than 100 Pennsylvanians participated in a virtual climate rally on Tuesday, joined by five members of the General Assembly to set forth goals for anti-climate change legislation.
PennEnvironment hosted an online lobby day, where climate activists across the state can virtually meet with lawmakers and climate experts. The group outlined three key policies they want to see Pennsylvania lawmakers prioritize.
Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery County, said that between the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustices coming to fruition across the country, people are beginning to pay more attention to state government. She said now is a good time to try and educate people on environmental inequality and how much waste and pollution Pennsylvania emits.
“There’s a lot of conversation about what going back to normal looks like,” Muth said during the virtual rally. “Normal for us wasn’t so good here in Pennsylvania.”
Rep. Wendy Ullman, D-Bucks County, said in order for the state to reach the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, it’s crucial that Pennsylvania joins the RGGI partnership.
RGGI requires power plants to pay for the costs of capping carbon dioxide emissions, such as paying for electric-power generators and other allowances. Power plants must purchase an allowance at each quarterly auction for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit, and proceeds from the auction are given back to the participating states.
Gov. Tom Wolf issued an executive order last fall that would admit Pennsylvania to the alliance. The state House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a hearing in February on the proposal and members of the Small Business Association said fees placed on power plants could have detrimental effects on the cost of energy for small businesses.
Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler County, strongly opposes the RGGI partnership and suggested during the hearing that it would negatively impact industry jobs throughout the state.
“Until the Wolf Administration can honestly move beyond the realm of zero answers, uncertainty and non-transparency as to how the RGGI process would proceed, Pennsylvania taxpayers and job-creating energy producers have every reason to question whether our tax dollars are being spent in an appropriate manner by executive agencies such as the DEP,” Metcalfe said in a February statement.
The House Environmental Resources and Energy last week passed House Bill 2025, which would reinforce that legislative authorization is required before Pennsylvania could join any cap-and-trade, carbon tax-imposing emissions program such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Pennsylvania ranks 38th in the country for having an overall good natural environment and is above the national averages for industrial toxins and drinking water violations, according to U.S. News and World Report. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a large industry in the state that greatly contributed to water pollution.
Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, highlighted the racial disparities in environmental issues, saying people of color are more likely to live near sources of pollutants and that “climate justice is racial justice.”
“The impact of our inactions is not going to be felt equally,” Kenyatta said. “We have systems that are deeply broken.”
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