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Remembering a Historic Year for Conservation

Molly Parzen, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, looks back at the conservation movement's many victories in 2022.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This year will go down in history as one of the most consequential in the history of the conservation movement.

On the federal level, after decades of activism, lobbying and organizing, Congress finally passed a historic bill to tackle climate change.

The Inflation Reduction Act, championed by President Biden, will invest nearly $370 billion in building a 21st Century economy powered by clean, renewable energy.

This legislation is expected to get us most of the way toward meeting our climate goals even as scientists warn that we’re running out of time to avert a climate disaster.

And it does it by showing that investments in the environment strengthen, rather than damage, working families and our economy.

This landmark achievement will lower energy costs for working families by providing assistance to transition to electric vehicles, as well as heat pumps and energy-efficient appliances that save consumers money.

The Inflation Reduction Act will also create millions of union jobs manufacturing new solar panels and installing wind farms, upgrading our electrical grid and weatherizing homes and businesses.

Here in Pennsylvania, the Inflation Reduction Act also means more help for farmers seeking to practice soil conservation techniques that improve water quality, lower costs, and reduce climate pollution.

The Inflation Reduction Act never would have crossed the finish line without concerted, persistent advocacy from an army of pro-environment volunteers across the commonwealth – but particularly in the Philadelphia suburbs, which also featured prominently in this year’s elections.

At the federal level, counties like Bucks propelled John Fetterman to victory against climate change-denying Mehmet Oz in a Senate race that helped decide the future of President Biden’s agenda.

And at the state level, Pennsylvanians, including Bucks voters, overwhelmingly elected Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a proven environmental champion, against a candidate who espoused extreme anti-democratic views.

Philadelphia’s suburbs also broke decisively for pro-environment candidates in the state legislature – in part thanks to significant investments in voter outreach by Conservation Voters of PA – powering a wave that will propel Democrats into control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the first time in more than a decade.

This will give us more ammunition as we seek to stop seemingly endless attacks from extremist Republicans aiming to weaken key environmental regulations that protect the health of our families and the safety of the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.

It deals a blow to legislative attempts to force Pennsylvania  to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state initiative that will curb climate pollution while providing hundreds of millions of dollars to lower energy costs for working families and local businesses.

These victories will also give us an opportunity over the next two years to build off the landmark conservation investments included in this year’s state budget.

Using federal pandemic funds, Governor Wolf and the state legislature invested nearly $800 million in programs that will preserve open space and agricultural land. This will help protect communities across the commonwealth, including in Bucks County, that are known for their stunning natural beauty.

These programs will also help address flooding and improve water quality.

We need to build on these historic victories in 2023.

Given the closely divided nature of the state House of Representatives, we’re preparing to work in lockstep with Governor-elect Shapiro, as well as environmental champions in the legislature, on identifying key priorities that we can push over the finish line, from investing in continued conservation programs in the state budget to ensuring that every community – particularly low-income families and communities of color – benefits from the transition to clean energy.

The environmental community’s accomplishments in 2022 – despite an incredibly challenging political environment and closely divided state – came about because people were willing to work together across geographic, party and socioeconomic lines to fight for a better future for our families and our children.

We’re excited to take that energy into a new year to continue delivering victories that protect our air and water, preserve Pennsylvania’s precious open space and kickstart a transition to clean energy that will create jobs and fight climate change.

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Molly Parzen

Molly Parzen

Molly Parzen is Executive Director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, a statewide environmental advocacy group.

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