Legislation introduced to reduce Pennsylvania's greenhouse gas emissions

HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Greg Vitali unveiled legislation designed to encourage Pennsylvania to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during a news conference today in the Capitol. He was joined by representatives of environmental organizations, a professor and a legislator who voiced support for the legislation.


"Pennsylvania has a duty to work toward carbon neutrality because it produces almost 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases," said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. "The legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf must find ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy."


To work toward that goal, Vitali has introduced three bills that would increase the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, permanently fund the Sunshine Solar program and reduce the demand for energy.


"Too much of our energy comes from dirty sources that harm the environment and our communities -- but it doesn't have to be that way," said Elowyn Corby, PennEnvironment’s global warming and clean energy associate. "We can harness abundant and pollution-free energy from the wind and the sun. Legislation like this shows how Harrisburg can help us get to the clean energy future Pennsylvanians deserve."


Joanne Kilgour, director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, said increasing the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard to require electric companies to use more power generated by renewable sources would increase jobs and help the environment.


"Strengthening our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard is not just a step toward securing healthier communities in Pennsylvania, but will make our energy sector more competitive in the region's economy."


Richard Whiteford, leader at the Climate Reality Project, said burning fossil fuels from the start of the Industrial Revolution until today has increased the planet’s average temperature by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. He noted that scientists say we can’t exceed a 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit increase without causing climate destabilization that would jeopardize the ability of future generations to survive.


"We are already witnessing extreme weather events and we are only about half way to the 3.6 degree limit," Whiteford said. "This leaves us only one choice: We must leave carbon in the ground or humans won’t be around."


State Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, said Vitali has proposed "modest legislative changes that will go a long way in encouraging a culture change in how we – as consumers – think about energy, energy consumption and climate change."


Vitali today introduced House Bills 100, 129 and 200.


H.B. 100 would increase the state's Tier I Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards to 15 percent by 2023. The current rate is 8 percent by 2021.


H.B. 129 would require natural gas distribution companies to reduce energy consumption and demand by 1 percent by 2018 and 3 percent by 2020. These are the same requirements currently placed on electric distribution companies under Act 129 of 2008.


H.B. 200 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 a 1.25-mill increase on the utilities’ Gross Receipts Tax.


Also speaking at the news conference were Brooks Mountcastle, eastern Pennsylvania director for Clean Water Action; Sandy Strauss, director of public advocacy for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches; and John Dernbach, co-director of the Environmental Law Center at Widener University.