Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Legislation Faces an Uphill Battle in General Assembly

Editors Note: This article was originally published for the Rick Smith Show

Earlier today in the Capitol Media Center, State Representatives Greg Vitali and Stephen McCarter called on Governor Wolf and the General Assembly to take up legislation that would combat climate change.  Standing alongside the two state representatives were representatives from the the Pennsylvania Sierra Club and PennEnvironment and members from the interfaith and academic communities.  The bills that were reintroduced into the current session take aim at reducing Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions, restoring and permanently funding programs for households and small business owners who buy solar panels and curbing the amount of natural gas that is used by electric companies.

A 2009 report published by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources shows that the Commonwealth contributes to 4.1 percent of total greenhouse gasses emitted in the United States and 1 percent of the total greenhouse gasses emitted worldwide.  According to Representative Vitali, it is time to “urge the Governor and the Pennsylvania Legislature to take its responsibility seriously and reduce greenhouse gas,” and that “Pennsylvania has significant responsibility” to curb its greenhouse gas emissions because of its worldwide contribution.

The effects of climate change can be felt on a regional level.  According to the United States Global Change Research Project, the northeastern United States has witnessed a 71 percent increase in torrential downpours.  As McCarter pointed, “global warming means increasing atmospheric and land temperatures.  Hotter oceans means bigger storms.  The amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest one percent of storms has increased nationally over the last 50 years with the largest increases in the Northeast, Great Plains, Midwest and Southeast.”

The first bill that Vitali talked about was House Bill 100, which would increase Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio standards to 15 percent by 2023.  This bill would require energy companies like PECO in Southeastern Pennsylvania or PPL in Central Pennsylvania to increase their solar, wind or other renewable portfolios, but at the present moment, the state’s alternative energy portfolio standards is set for 8 percent by 2020.  This would almost double the amount of alternative energy that electric companies would have to produce.  According to Vitali, Pennsylvania is woefully behind New Jersey, whose alternative energy standards is set for 17.8 percent by 2021.  The second piece of legislation is would amend House Bill 129, which already requires energy companies to reduce the burning of coal and oil, to require these same utility providers to reduce the consumption of natural gas.

The last bill in the packet is House Bill 200, which would revive the Pennsylvania Sunshine Solar Program whose funding ran dry in 2013.  Greentech Media explains that the $180 million program was funded through state bonds, and it was an extremely popular program.  Within three years, the five year program went through most of it’s allocated funds.  To restore permanent funding to this once popular program that helped homeowners and small businesses, Vitali is looking to add $25 million a year through a 1.25 milliage increase to the utilities’ gross receipts tax.

During his presentation, Representative Stephen McCarter called out climate change deniers who have “buried their heads in the sand on this issue” as being “foolish” and “irresponsible.”  Within the national Republican Party, tides regarding climate change are shifting.  Last month Reuters reported that 56 percent of registered republicans believe that there should be regulations that target greenhouse gas emissions, and Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said “‘I’m not a scientist’ won’t be a winner in the presidential field.”

When asked about registered republicans shifting their views on climate change and how would they convince their colleagues to support such legislation with oil and gas money influencing state politics, Vitali said that it’s a tough sell and compared the shift in climate change politics to the decade long political shifts in same-sex marriage and medical marijuana usage.  Vitali went to explain that “you see these issues over time hit tipping points, and suddenly through some event or action, they become more politically difficult to vote against,” and that “you have to keep moving the issue towards that tipping point.”

 

 

 

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About Sean Kitchen 595 Articles
Assistant Editor of the Raging Chicken Press and living in Harrisburg pursuing journalistic opportunities. You can send tips to SeanKitchen@RagingChickenPress.org and reach me on twitter at @RCPress_Sean!
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