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Pennsylvania Can Lead the Nation to a Cleaner Future, Before It’s Too Late

Now is the time to take bold steps to leverage federal dollars, transform our energy systems, and secure a clean and healthy environment for generations to come.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This year marks a moment of opportunity and urgency for Pennsylvania’s environmental future. 

Following the passage of President Biden’s historic climate agenda in Washington, our commonwealth has an unprecedented opportunity to positively transform our air, water, energy, housing, labor, democracy, and education systems to support environmental and human health for generations to come. 

Governor Shapiro’s first year in office included some good first steps. The Governor increased funding for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), continued the Wolf administration’s efforts to protect The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) from extremist attacks in court by the oil and gas industry, and oversaw the implementation of new rules to change many of the oil and gas industry’s most pollutive practices. 

READ: Snipes Farm’s Transition to Permaculture Practices Will Reduce Environmental Footprint, Protect Biodiversity

Governor Shapiro’s newest budget proposal builds on this positive momentum by calling for increased funding for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and DEP, increased investment in transit, projects to replace lead pipes, and $11 million to plug abandoned oil and gas wells.

Yet the urgency for action to protect our environment is greater than ever. Pennsylvania remains one of the highest carbon emitting states in the country. By 2050, average temperatures are projected to increase by at least 3 degrees Celsius, meaning Philadelphia’s climate will feel more like Richmond, VA, and Pittsburgh’s climate more like Washington, DC. We must maintain our resolve and take action now to protect the health of Pennsylvania’s people and its environment.

The window to leverage federal resources to benefit Pennsylvania is also closing. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which contains many of the Biden Administration’s climate investments, is set to expire in less than 10 years. The bipartisan infrastructure law, which funds investments in transit, water quality and electric vehicle charging infrastructure, will expire in 2026, near the end of Governor Shapiro’s current term in office. 

A number of states are acting quickly to utilize these landmark federal investments to fight climate change while creating union jobs and boosting their local economies. New Jersey, Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan are leveraging IIJA financing to build and update roads, bridges, mass transit, and water infrastructure. New Jersey is positioning itself as a national leader in offshore wind, Arizona is doubling down on solar, and Michigan is building electric vehicle manufacturing facilities.

READ: Solar for Schools: A Win for Kids, Taxpayers and Pennsylvania

Our commonwealth has the skilled and unionized workforce to build a clean energy future for the 21st Century. Pennsylvania must seize this opportunity to lead the nation’s clean energy revolution and create sustainable union jobs that help our communities prosper. 

We can do this by securing our full share of federal dollars for well capping, public transit support, and the development of environmentally friendly capital projects. Governor Shapiro’s proposal of $11 million to cap abandoned oil and gas wells is a good start, but an investment of $50 million will better equip Pennsylvania to leverage maximum funding available.

Pennsylvania can also pass “Solar for Schools” legislation as part of the state budget process. This bipartisan legislation would create union jobs, improve air quality, save school districts’ money, and lower costs for taxpayers by leveraging federal investments.

The commonwealth can go even further by securing federal tax credits to deliver clean, renewable energy production and manufacturing to communities across Pennsylvania while employing union workers to that end.

Attracting new solar panel manufacturing facilities and installing new wind farms won’t just help curb climate pollution. An all-of-government approach to build the clean energy economy of the future will also ensure economic prosperity for our workers and communities for generations to come.

READ: President Biden’s New Transit Rule Is Good News for People and the Planet

If we fail to act quickly, neighboring states will continue to outcompete us in securing these opportunities and Pennsylvania’s environmental future will be compromised. Now is the time to take bold steps to leverage federal dollars, transform our energy systems, and secure a clean and healthy environment for generations to come.

The governor’s budget address was the first step. Now as we embark on the budget process we must secure a final spending agreement that invests in environmental protection, curbs carbon pollution, and prepares Pennsylvania to compete in a 21st Century clean energy economy.

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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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