HARRISBURG, PA — As the Pennsylvania General Assembly prepares to vote on legislation that, if passed, would strip the Department of Environmental Protection’s authority to regulate climate pollution, hundreds of concerned Pennsylvanians attended virtual lobby meetings with their respective state legislators to voice their disapproval for attacking climate solutions.
“Pennsylvanians are sick and tired of legislative leaders in Harrisburg doing everything in their power to stand in the way of policy solutions meant to address climate change,” said Flora Carodni, PennEnvironment’s field director. “It feels like the public’s support for tackling climate change has far outpaced our elected officials’ willingness to implement the policies needed to ensure a safe climate for our children and future generations. Concerned Pennsylvanians are with us today to say that those days are over.”
More than 400 civically engaged Pennsylvanians took part in more than 90 meetings with their respective state senators and representatives as part of the PennEnvironment annual citizen climate lobby day.
The outpouring of public concern about climate change came as the state legislature prepares to push forward with legislation in both chambers (SB 119 and HB 637) to strip the Department of Environmental Protection’s authority to regulate climate pollution. This effort would keep Pennsylvania from joining the longstanding and successful climate pollution reduction program known as RGGI (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative). If passed, the legislation could bring Pennsylvania’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint to a grinding halt. This includes hindering Gov. Tom Wolf‘s proposal to reduce climate pollution from cars and trucks.
The centerpiece of the day was a virtual rally, featuring a diverse lineup of speakers with different backgrounds and insights on the climate crisis, including State Rep. Chris Rabb and State Sen. Amanda M. Cappelletti, who are sponsoring legislation in the state House and state Senate, respectively, to require Pennsylvania to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050; Dr. Gabriel Cisneros, a pediatrician with the American Academy of Pediatrics; John Shenk, a farmer and the owner of Shenk’s Berry Farm; and Divya Jain, president of Penn State’s Eco Action Club. Hundreds of attendees joined the rally virtually, donning climate action t-shirts and holding up signs calling for Pennsylvania to take action on the climate crisis.
“PennEnvironment is a great partner in the fight to mitigate climate change,” said state Sen. Amanda M. Cappelletti. “The Go 100 PA legislation that we put together is a bold vision for Pennsylvania moving forward. It plans for the future, rather than exacerbating existing problems. I am excited to be a part of their lobby day as we aim to get more elected officials to prioritize climate change and the environment in their legislative work.”
“Declaring our intent to be 100% renewable by 2050 begins to move Pennsylvania away from an unreliable, extractive economy to a regenerative economy, where communities thrive, and ecologically sustainable livelihoods are prioritized,” said state Senator Katie Muth. “We must take a stand and invest in a sustainable economy that includes green energy, clean technology, and end policies that cause unconditional environmental and public health harm. We can’t wait a moment longer to do what is right – we need to act now.”
When attendees had breaks between the meetings with their legislators, there were ongoing virtual events in which they could participate. PennEnvironment hosted a screening of the film A River Reborn, which tells the story of how decades of coal mining left western Pennsylvania’s Little Conemaugh River “too polluted to recover,” and how local leaders came together to bring it back to life. A Q&A with the film’s critically-acclaimed director, Ben Kalina, followed.
PennEnvironment also hosted a panel discussion of activists from four different generations — Richard Kaplan, Ashleigh Deemer, Emma Searson, and Ava Roberts. They shared their different experiences and reflected on their backgrounds fighting against climate change. They also offered insights on ways to take next steps — whether big or small — in activism. The day wrapped up with a fun and interactive climate trivia game.
“Today’s participants showed that they expect our elected officials to be climate leaders,” Cardoni said. “Pennsylvania’s elected officials should focus on passing the slew of bipartisan bills awaiting action in the General Assembly that would help reduce climate pollution, including proposals to build electric vehicle infrastructure, promote more energy-efficient appliances, and increase solar energy production in the state.”
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