2016-01-30 / Viewpoints

Do we care about clean air?


(Gretchen Dahlkemper, a native of Erie, is national field director for the Moms Clean Air Force. She previously served as Pennsylvania field organizer, advocating for environmental education and activism.)

Last month, I spent nearly two weeks in Paris. On behalf of Moms Clean Air Force’s 600,000 members, I joined colleagues and partners advocating for a strong agreement that will usher in a healthy and safe future for our children by combatting climate change.

What a disappointing contrast I found upon my return to Pennsylvania.

Despite unprecedented momentum to tackle climate change on a global scale, back home our leaders in Harrisburg snuck a provision in a budget bill that that would seriously jeopardize our children’s health and continue the long-standing tradition of putting the profits of polluters over the health of our children.

This year’s Fiscal Code bill, a piece of budget-related legislation, scuttles the public process and transparency for regulations that defend our kids’ health and calls into question the hope for a vibrant clean energy future.

One of the United States’ first major steps to tackling climate pollution lies in America’s Clean Power Plan. The Fiscal Code gives the General Assembly the power to hold up the Department of Environmental Protection’s compliance with America’s Clean Power Plan.

This would delay the development of Pennsylvania’s plan to reduce pollution, while playing politics with our planet and our children’s health.

Ignoring the worldwide shift to clean energy solutions, Pennsylvania leaders are setting us up to fail.

The legislation would also prohibit the state Environmental Quality Board from adopting much-needed and long overdue modernizations of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas drilling standards.

The Senate should reject this House-approved bill so that Pennsylvania can stay on track to submit a clean air plan that works for Pennsylvanians, instead of playing the polluters’ dangerous game of delays and obstructions.

Not doing so could jeopardize public health and climate protections while opening the door for a plan dictated by Washington, instead of one that’s crafted in a timely way right here at home.

Pennsylvania must reject the politics of obstruction and work swiftly to develop a state plan that capitalizes on the state’s strong renewable energy and energy efficiency resources, and set strong standards to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

The message is loud and clear – the transformation of our energy system from dirty, dangerous fossil fuels to cheap, clean, renewable energy is irreversible. By protecting a dying coal industry and ignoring the worldwide shift away from fossil fuels to clean energy solutions, Pennsylvania leaders are setting us up to fail.

Our families deserve better. Pennsylvania’s children deserve the economic opportunities and health benefits associated with a sustainable, renewable energy economy.

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