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Safe water, air and climate (and JOBS)

The Pennsylvania Constitution calls out specifically for the conservation and maintenance of natural resources as a right. Section 26 of Article 1 reads, "The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all of the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people." Note the emphasis on "generations yet to come."

Year after year, month after month, temperatures are rising. 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded, shattering the record set in 2014. The long term trend continues relentlessly: April 2016 was the hottest April ever recorded. March 2016 the hottest March. February the hottest February.

This isn’t happening somewhere else to somebody else. According to Penn State scientists, if current trends continue, the average temperature in Pennsylvania will be 5-6 degrees higher in 2050 than it was in 2000. This is not the distant future. This 34 years from now, in Pennsylvania.

Imagine each day 5-6 degrees warmer. And, with more precipitation. Weather will be different. Where and when plants do and don’t grow will be different. The number and type of bugs will be different, including disease-carrying ones. Our lifestyles and needs will change as we cope with the temperature each day being higher and higher (on average, many days will be much warmer) than a few years ago. The impacts will be widespread and unpredictable.

Fifteen of the sixteen hottest years ever recorded have happened since 2001. The planet is getting hotter because of a thick blanket of gasses that holds heat in. The heat from the sun comes in through the blanket and then can’t get back out. It’s called the greenhouse effect. (It’s like a car on a summer day that gets really hot inside.) This blanket of gasses around the planet is natural and important—it’s what keeps the planet warm and inhabitable. But, the blanket has now gotten too thick.

The gasses that are making the blanket thicker are called “greenhouse gasses.” There are many different ones, but the most common one (by far) is carbon dioxide. It comes mostly from burning fuels like coal, fuel oil, natural gas and gasoline. To keep from making the blanket thicker and to slow or stop our planet from overheating, we need to burn less of these fuels. We use these fuels to make electricity, drive our trucks and cars and run our factories.

There are a number of ways our state government can help us use less of these fuels—and in the process, protect our air and water too. A number of plans are listed below, but fracking is given its on Issue section.

Expand Energy Efficiency

In 2008, Pennsylvania enacted Act 129, requiring our major utility companies to help consumers reduce their electricity usage. The program has saved customers $2.40 in benefits for every $1 customers paid to support energy efficiency programs. What a deal! That’s $750 million in energy bills savings to date. The state’s own analysis shows that Pennsylvania could capture an additional 27% reduction in energy use over the next ten years by deploying cost-effective energy efficiency technologies. Doing so would help homeowners, businesses, and manufacturers use energy smarter and reap big savings.

Greater Use of Renewable Energy Sources

Our alternative energy portfolio standard has already helped build enough wind and solar in the state to power 330,000 homes and has brought in $2.8 billion in capital investment. Much more can be done—including increasing the AEPS, access to low-cost financing (such as PACE and community solar programs) and support for innovative, local programs such as Solarize.

Support Regional and National Plans to Cut Emissions

RGGI is nonprofit, cooperative program among nine states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) that uses a market-based approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI states have experienced a reduction of over 40 percent in power sector CO2 pollution since 2005, while the regional economy has grown eight percent (adjusted for inflation). A 2015 report estimates a return of more than $2.9 billion in lifetime energy bill savings to more than 3.7 million participating households and 17,800 businesses, after more than $1 billion in RGGI auction proceeds were invested in programs including energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy, greenhouse gas abatement, and direct bill assistance. Joining RGGI is a promising option for Pennsylvania.

The Federal government has recently put in place a new regulation called the Clean Power Plan requiring each state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. In Pennsylvania, we need to come up with a plan for reducing ours by about a third. The Supreme Court put a temporary hold on enforcement of the Clean Power Plan while some other states argue over it in the federal courts. Many states continue to plan for the changes that are urgently needed to reduce emissions.

A strong Clean Power Plan for Pennsylvania will rely on energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy sources to meet our goal. A recent study found that ramping up investments in energy efficiency alone to meet our target would create more than 5,100 jobs in Pennsylvania and save families and businesses more than $450 million by 2020.

Putting the Wellbeing and Happiness of Everyday People First

Steps to support clean energy businesses payoff for Pennsylvanians in many ways--business development, new jobs, consumer savings and safeguarding our water, air and environment.
Clean energy jobs in Pennsylvania already engage a widely diverse workforce up and down the supply chain, including construction, professional services, R&D, manufacturing and assembly. A recent survey found that over a fourth of new hires in the clean energy workforces were women, with employers also drawing strongly from minority groups, veterans and those over the age of 55.

There is probably no greater opportunity to improve the lives of Pennsylvania families and businesses than programs and regulations to support energy efficiency and the transition to a clean energy economy. Over and over again, these programs deliver proven benefits in terms of jobs, savings and environmental improvement that far outweigh the cost.

Energy efficiency and clean energy programs provide real return and real value to the everyday people and businesses in Pennsylvania.

For more information

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures in 2015 (full release, http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-noaa-analyses-reveal-record-shattering-global-warm-temperatures-in-2015)

Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update (May 2015, full report here, http://www.elibrary.dep.state.pa.us/dsweb/Get/Document-108470/2700-BK-DEP4494.pdf)

April breaks global temperature record, marking seven months of new highs (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/16/april-third-month-in-row-to-break-global-temperature-records)

Clean Jobs Pennsylvania (2016, full report, http://www.cleanjobspa.com/)

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, for details, https://www.rggi.org/)


Paid for by Friends of Vera Cole
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