30+ PA Environmental Advocates Release Shared Vision For Pennsylvania's Environment & Communities As A Guide For Candidates For Governor, Senate, House
On August 2, more than 30 advocacy organizations from across Pennsylvania stood together in the Capitol Rotunda to publicly release a new document that represents our shared values and priorities ahead of elections this fall for a new governor and state Legislature.
Entitled, “A Shared Vision for Pennsylvania’s Environment and Communities,” this 30-page document is designed to put Pennsylvania at the forefront of action on climate change and environmental justice to protect our families, create jobs and ensure that every Pennsylvania community benefits.
“Environmental protection is the key to creating jobs, strengthening our economy and promoting equity at a time when families and local businesses are struggling to recover from the pandemic and facing high energy prices,” said Molly Parzen, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. “Our Shared Vision broadens the tent of environmental advocacy to show how protecting our open space, improving our air and water quality and building a green energy economy will benefit every Pennsylvanian, from the biggest city to the most rural township.”
The Shared Vision, released as a guide for candidates as elections for governor and the state legislature draw closer, includes recommendations on issues ranging from clean water, clean energy, labor, open space, land use, democracy, and environmental education.
At the same time, it brings together organizations representing groups that have been traditionally excluded from the table, explaining how environmental protection can benefit communities of color, urban and rural neighborhoods and workers.
“Centering environmental justice shows that no matter where you live or what you look like, clean water and a healthy environment should be the minimum goal our government provides,” said Veronica Coptis, Executive Director, Center for Coalfield Justice. “No matter who is our next governor of Pennsylvania, there are clear steps they can take in this agenda to put the health of Pennsylvanians before CEO and shareholder profits.”
The Shared Vision builds off successes in the budget agreement signed by Governor Wolf, including nearly $700 million for conservation investments and $125 million for an innovative Whole Home Repairs Program that will curb emissions while lowering energy costs for low-income Pennsylvania families.
It lays out a range of policy proposals, from building climate-resilient infrastructure to managing stormwater runoff, that will create jobs and deliver tangible benefits for Pennsylvania families.
“PennFuture was honored to work with so many great partners to create A Shared Vision for Pennsylvania’s Environment and Communities, a document which highlights the most important environmental issues and policy solutions facing the Commonwealth," said Michael Mehrazar, Field Manager for PennFuture. "Crucially, this Shared Vision was intentionally designed to elevate the voices of environmental justice and frontline communities, ensuring that those issues were represented on every page. We believe that this has made the Shared Vision a powerful, holistic statement that should be strongly considered by every candidate running for public office this midterm election.”
The Shared Vision addresses Pennsylvania’s long history of environmental racism and injustice, in which communities of color and working families have disproportionately borne the brunt of pollution and industrialization, by calling for transformative investments in replacing dangerous lead water pipes, limiting the cumulative impacts of air pollution on environmental justice communities and ensuring the equitable electrification of public transit, school buses and other vehicles.
"Pennsylvania has no shortage of environmental threats that impact the lives of residents, especially those in low income and communities of color. Addressing these issues requires not just a commitment from our elected officials but a blueprint for how we'll actually bring about change. The Shared Vision is a comprehensive plan that our elected officials need to embrace in order to effectively shape Pennsylvania's environmental future," said Steve Hvozdovich, Pennsylvania Campaigns Director, Clean Water Action.
The document also calls on Pennsylvania leaders to invest the proceeds of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state initiative to tackle climate change while building a green power sector, in ways that lower energy costs for low-income families and create jobs in underserved communities.
“The League of Women Voters has declared a climate emergency. As beneficiaries and trustees of our Commonwealth, it is imperative that we work together to address the real and present dangers to our natural world at the local, state and national levels. We only have one planet and we need to use this time to secure a healthy environment for future generations. We must act now,” said Kathy Cook, Environmental Policy Director, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.
To combat false narratives that we must choose between jobs and the environment, the Shared Vision also demonstrates how environmental protection can be leveraged to create family-sustaining union jobs as Pennsylvanians are put to work installing green stormwater infrastructure to mitigate flooding, weatherizing homes and businesses to reduce energy costs and installing new solar panels and wind turbines to power our economy with renewable energy.
“Our Shared Vision advances the fight for justice in all forms- housing, economic, environmental, racial and social,” said Diana Robinson, Civic Engagement Director with Make the Road Pennsylvania. “By engaging and educating policymakers about the role they can play to create a better Pennsylvania for their constituents, we hope to create a healthier, more equitable and prosperous Commonwealth.”
Policies supporting environmental protection enjoy broad, bipartisan consensus. But the voices of Pennsylvania voters are too often drowned out by corporate special interests.
“Our environment, our communities, and our health are too often secondary when it comes to politics in Pennsylvania. Our goal in developing this document was to change that dynamic. Advocacy organizations from across the state came together to identify the most pressing issues impacting our environment and our communities and to provide clear policy solutions. We hope that candidates for governor and for the state legislature will use this document as a guide in developing their platforms, and after they’re elected, that they will prioritize making these policy solutions a reality,” said Jennifer Quinn, Legislative and Political Director, Pennsylvania Sierra Club.
The Shared Vision unites our diverse and powerful movement to propose reforms that would preserve our democracy, clean up Harrisburg and put the people back in charge by expanding access to voting, reforming the legislative process and protecting our state’s independent judiciary from partisan attacks.
Bobby Hughes, Executive Director Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR), said: “EPCAMR is looking forward to working with our partners in our environmental justice coalfield communities to propose abandoned mine land reclamation and mine water pollution cleanup projects in our watersheds with any and all new and incumbent leadership in Pennsylvania. We have such a tremendous opportunity in front of us for the next nearly 13 years to leverage federal infrastructure, abandoned mine land reclamation, economic development, and alternative energy funding from various programs, in addition to our state-funded programs to reclaim a large number of health and safety problem areas on the landscape, turn our focus on greener alternative energy projects that can create job and workforce development opportunities for our coalfield communities, and restore miles of streams previously impaired by abandoned mine drainage (AMD) for recreational benefits, potential industrial reuse of the mine water and recovery of rare earth elements, and long-term treatment of the mine water through the construction of active water treatment system infrastructure projects that will also create jobs."
Suzanne Biemiller, Executive Director of Audubon Mid-Atlantic, said: “The 2022 Shared Vision for Pennsylvania’s Environment and Communities provides a clear roadmap to a sustainable and resilient Pennsylvania, protecting our most precious resources – our land, air, water and people. Audubon Mid-Atlantic is proud to work with all the partners involved to build consensus around issues that matter most to Pennsylvanians and to provide a voice for birds, and the millions of Pennsylvanians who love birds and the places they need to survive. Pennsylvanians know the places birds need to survive are the very same places that keep humans healthy and our economies strong and adaptable. We look forward to working with lawmakers and communities across the state to implement this common agenda for the benefit of Pennsylvania’s environment and all people and birds that depend on it.”
Summary Of Recommendations
The Executive Summary of the report contains a full list of the Shared Vision recommendations. Here’s the text of that summary--
Pennsylvania experiences high levels of air pollution, which negatively impacts our health and climate. However, we have the tools we need to deal with these issues: investing in renewable energy, funding for increased air quality monitoring, and prioritizing the needs of frontline and environmental justice communities.
-- Require facilities seeking permits within EJ [environmental justice] communities to prepare a cumulative environmental impact assessment and health risk assessment that includes any potential negative impacts they may have on the surrounding area. The DEP should then be empowered to deny a permit application based on the results of the cumulative impacts.
-- Provide funding for increased air quality monitoring, which includes community monitoring and facility site monitoring.
-- Oppose all new subsidies for petrochemical facilities in Pennsylvania. Support increased, science- backed setback requirements (protective buffers) between fracking, compressor stations, and processing plants and homes, schools, and waterbodies.
-- No permit renewals for facilities with outstanding violations.
-- Endorse policies aimed at equitable electrification of public transit, school buses, heavy
duty truck traffic, as well as personal cars and infrastructure development
-- Establish new setback requirements between certain non-public utility gas and natural gas liquids pipelines and pipelines that are not under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and homes, schools, and waterbodies.
-- Support setback requirements between gas-fired power plants, petrochemical manufacturing/ processing facilities and homes, schools, and waterbodies.
-- Support the Commonwealth remaining in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, ensuring that power sector emissions decline significantly over time.
-- Propose legislation that ensures RGGI proceeds are equitably distributed to low-income
rate payers, workers, communities impacted by closures of fossil fuel generation facilities, and environmental justice communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution. This can be accomplished through energy efficiency, clean energy programs, and other programs identified by impacted communities as beneficial to creating clean air.
-- Accelerate a transition to clean energy through subsidies, tax credits, job training, and minimum purchase requirements.
-- Increase public transit to provide alternatives to private vehicle travel and reduce vehicle emissions.
-- Support the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules to cut methane and volatile organic compound pollution from oil and gas operations and call for the rules to include a ban on flaring and inspections for small, leak-prone wells
Pennsylvania is blessed with tremendous water resources, including 86,000 miles of rivers, streams, and creeks. Unfortunately our waters face a plethora of challenges including plastics, lead, acid mine drainage, sewer overflow, and runoff fertilizer. Pennsylvania needs to stop the pollutants at the source and invest in dedicated programs that reduce runoff.
-- Drinking Water
-- Establish dedicated state funds for lead service line replacements and testing for schools.
-- Adopt a drinking water maximum contamination level (MCL) for PFOA that is as low as possible but does not exceed 6 parts per trillion and one for PFOS that is no greater than 5 ppt.
-- Adopt drinking water MCLs for more PFAS compounds, including PFNA, PFHxA, PFHxS, PFHpA, and PFBS.
-- Ban firefighting foams that contain PFAS.
-- Require all Pennsylvania children have their blood tested for lead at ages one and two which health professionals believe will help address gaps in data, more accurately define the scope of the childhood lead poisoning problem, better identify lead-laden communities,
and protect future children from acute exposure.
-- Phase out single-use plastics such as polystyrene food containers, single-use plastic bags, and plastic utensils.
-- Oppose any attempts to renew statewide preemption on single-use plastic regulations that would prohibit county and municipal governments from enacting or enforcing existing plastic bag bans.
-- Provide small grants for maintenance and rehabilitation of small sewage systems and private septic systems in rural areas so they are in compliance with current standards.
-- Prioritize public control of drinking water, and oppose attempts to undercut public ownership and democratic control.
-- Conservation and Recreation
-- Advocate for the use of $500 million in American Rescue Plan funds to support Growing Greener 3. [Accomplished in FY 2022-23 state budget.] In 2021, the Growing Greener Plus Program at DEP led to 150 new jobs and retained 539 existing jobs.
-- Commit to securing a long term funding source that will significantly increase Growing Greener investments.
-- Oppose any efforts that take money from existing dedicated funds (e.g., Environmental Stewardship Fund and Keystone, Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund).
-- Develop a five-year plan to address the maintenance backlog at our state lands and restore general fund allocations and staffing to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
-- Support the use of $250 million in American Rescue Plan funds to establish the Clean Streams Fund [Accomplished in FY 2022-23 state budget.].
-- Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)
-- Ensure that funding for AMD monitoring, assessment, and treatment considerations are prioritized and directed to environmental justice communities and coalfield communities across the Commonwealth.
-- Encourage the resource recovery of trace metals or rare earth elements from AMD and the
reuse of treated mine water and underground mine pools that need further evaluation for economic development.
-- Support and advocate for clean energy alternative uses of treated AMD such as hydroelectric, pump storage, geothermal, and more.
Pennsylvania’s future will depend on energy that is sustainable, equitable, and clean. In order to achieve this, Pennsylvania needs to move away from destructive extractive boom and bust cycles and false promises, like carbon capture, use, and storage, and hydrogen that still rely on fossil fuels, and instead invest in community resilience, proper enforcement of environmental regulations, and accelerated renewable electrification.
-- Oppose false solutions that are still extractive and continue to cause pollution within its cycle, including practices like blue hydrogen and carbon capture utilization and storage.
-- Close regulatory loopholes designed to favor the fossil fuel industry at the cost of Pennsylvanians’ health and safety.
-- No public dollars to fossil fuel companies through subsidies or state grants
-- Close the hazardous waste loophole for oil and gas and monitor for radioactive materials via
stricter enforcement of existing rules.
-- Provide guidance, oversight, and sufficient funding for full environmental remediation of fossil fuel affected communities and sites.
-- Remove preemptions for community ownership and distribution of utilities like energy, water, and internet.
-- Limit the number of deficiency letters DEP can send before denying a permit.
-- Equitably invest proceeds from participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
-- Incentivize clean energy adoption by households and small businesses, including making Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEV) more affordable and expanding charging station availability.
-- Incentivize practices within energy production, transportation, building construction, and industrial sectors that prioritize emissions reductions and normalize the creative development of solar energy (on brownfield sites, school rooftops, parking garages and lots)
-- Update the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) to limit carbon-based energy as an “alternative.”
-- Establish bill and/or rate caps on utility costs for low-income customers in coordination with energy efficiency, electrification, and renewable energy incentives.
-- Codify the legislative recommendations from Report 1 of the Forty-Third Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, including: expanding no-drill zones in Pennsylvania from the required 500 feet to 2,500 feet, requiring fracking companies to publicly disclose all chemicals used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing before they are used on-site, and requiring the regulation of gathering lines, used to transport unconventional gas hundreds of miles.
HOUSING AND LAND USE
Pennsylvanians’ homes and communities are in need of an upgrade. Too many aging homes and schools are filled with toxins like lead, mold, and asbestos. Too many neighborhoods lack adequate green spaces, which impacts flooding, urban heat, and the psychological well-being of residents. And too much of the Commonwealth does not have reliable public transit, which is both an equity and environmental problem. Public funding, zoning reform, and conservation efforts are needed to help resolve these issues.
-- Publicly fund affordable, healthy homes through home repairs, lead and asbestos abatements, and weatherization/electrification programs in environmental justice communities. Include strong tenant protections against displacement and rent increases, so that the state does not inadvertently harm tenants while making the housing stock healthier and more resilient. [Accomplished, mostly, in FY 2022-23 state budget.] Use these programs to build out a workforce of energy and air quality auditors and other unionized green jobs.
-- Enact comprehensive inclusionary zoning and land use plans that address climate resilience, such as incentivizing conservation and transit-oriented development, public transportation, bike lanes, and greenway trails in land use planning to reduce sprawl and the negative environmental and social impacts of auto-dependent land use policy.
-- Utilize Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds to support pedestrian, biking, and public transportation infrastructure. Examples include adequate LED street lighting, ADA accessible curbs, bus shelters with seating, proper street signage, and working crossing signals.
-- Establish statewide benchmarking and building performance standards and regularly update building codes.
-- Achieve 30x30 – conserving and Protecting at least 30% of PA’s lands by the year 2030. Ensuring that lands are protected to promote critical habitat conservation, cultural heritage and nature based economic development through fully funding and programming PA DCNR’s eight Conservation Landscapes across the state and providing for the acquisitions and management of additional networks of Conservation Landscapes.
-- Support smart land-use legislation that identifies green infrastructure corridors and methods to protect them.
-- Ensure that all affordable housing funded by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency is built to a net zero standard.
-- Require all municipalities to accept their fair share of affordable housing by supporting statewide inclusionary zoning legislation.
-- Local governments and the PA Department of Transportation need to evaluate, rank, and prioritize infrastructure projects, ensuring adequate lighting, shelter, and road conditions.
-- Provide municipalities and state agencies grant programs and incentives to prioritize green storm-water infrastructure over traditional systems.
-- Restore funding to Act 167 (Stormwater Management Act) planning efforts to ensure counties and municipalities have ordinances based on local watersheds. [Accomplished in FY 2022-23 state budget.]
-- Provide incentives and protections for riparian forested buffers, or streamside trees, a cost-effective way to improve stream health. Establish minimum standards with additional requirements given to lands adjacent to special protection waterways and allow municipalities to create local ordinances.
-- Use federal funding to support weatherization, repair, and energy efficiency projects for public schools.
In order to ensure that future Pennsylvanians understand and appreciate the importance of our environment, environmental education must be a fundamental part of every K-12 school’s curriculum. This must include both theoretical and hands-on learning, and must
be available to all students regardless of their zip code. Policies to make this a reality include increasing K-12 education funding and committing to appointing a Secretary
of Education that values environmental education.
-- Increase K-12 education funding so schools have the resources they need to implement an environmental curriculum.
-- Support the updated PA Integrated Standards for Science, Environment and Ecology (Grades 6-12), which will provide a cohesive K-12 integrated approach to science, environment and ecology education in Pennsylvania. [Final standards published in July]
-- Implement place-based environmental curriculum, using Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards as a guide.
-- Appoint a Secretary of Education that values environmental education as part of the K-12 curriculum.
-- Use federal investments to retrofit school buildings for energy efficiency and weatheri- zation, and make the environmental connection for students between these improvements and the quality of education.
There were also recommendations on labor and democracy included in the report.
[Posted: August 2, 2022]
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