|Rep. Greg Vitali
166th Legislative District
Nationally known climate scientist and lawmakers urge Pa. to address climate change
HARRISBURG, Jan. 14 – A nationally known climate scientist, environmental groups and state lawmakers today called on Gov. Tom Corbett and the General Assembly to take action on climate change, during a Capitol news conference organized by House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Greg Vitali.
On the heels of the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States, Vitali and others said Pennsylvania must take action now because it continues to be a significant source of greenhouse gasses.
"Pennsylvania emits about one percent of the world’s greenhouse gas, yet Gov. Tom Corbett has failed to even acknowledge the climate crisis," said Vitali, D-Delaware. "To avoid destabilizing the earth’s climate we must significantly increase our use of energy from renewable sources."
Michael Mann, a climate change expert who is director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said immediate action is needed on climate change, or the costs will continue to be steep.
"Over the past year, we've seen recording-breaking heat and drought across the U.S., devastating wildfires out west, and here in the east, the tremendous flooding and damage associated with the unprecedented Superstorm Sandy," Mann said. "Collectively these events are symptomatic of the warming of our planet and the changes in climate and weather patterns resulting from our continued burning of fossil fuels."
Vitali discussed two bills he is introducing that would address climate change by promoting renewable energy.
His first bill would increase the state's Tier I Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards to 15 percent by 2023. The current rate is 8 percent by 2021. His other bill would establish a dedicated funding source for the PA Sunshine Solar Program. The program, which has exhausted its funding, helps homeowners and businesses install solar systems. The program would receive $25 million a year from an impact fee already in place on Marcellus Shale drilling under his bill.
Christina Simeone, director of PennFuture Energy Center; said Vitali's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard legislation would be equivalent to taking more than four million cars off the road or avoiding the use of more than two billion gallons of gasoline in 2023.
State Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Philadelphia and Montgomery, said Pennsylvania can help fight climate change without hurting its economy. He pointed out that American auto manufacturers are now making fuel-efficient vehicles and are making more money.
Boyle urged quick action on Vitali's bills.
"We are at the point where we have to deal with this issue, not 10 years from now, not 20 years from now," Boyle said.
Tom Tuffey, vice president of project services for Community Energy of Radnor, said his company is hiring people, but they are working on alternative energy projects in states such as New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts that are investing in renewable energy. He noted that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that his state would invest $150 million a year for the next 10 years to expand the NY-Sun Initiative for solar energy.
David Michener, president of Sun to Sun, LLC, urged all Pennsylvanians to understand how different types of energy sources affect the world's atmosphere and, in effect, climate change.
"If you're concerned about the environment and how energy sources contribute to global warming, please take the time to understand why renewable energy needs to be part of America's energy policy," Michener urged. "Technologies like solar and wind produce no air pollution and for some home owners and business owners is an excellent investment."
The news conference was also attended by Manan Trivedi, a Truman Fellow, physician, and Iraq War veteran who represented Operation Free, Bruce Burcat, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition and other organizations that support Vitali's legislation.