GOP budget underfunds environmental protection

(Jun 27, 2015)

HARRISBURG, June 27 – The Republican-crafted budget poised to pass the state House significantly underfunds environmental protection, state Rep. Greg Vitali said. The budget does not fund Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed energy investment initiative, which would provide more than $140 million for renewable energy and conservation programs. Those programs would create good-paying jobs, save money and help the environment. “This budget continues to ignore Pennsylvania’s ethical responsibilities to address climate change,” said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. In addition, the GOP budget cuts funding for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from $147 million proposed by the governor to $143.5 million. Vitali said the budget continues the chronic underfunding of DEP, which had received $200 million in the 2006-07 fiscal year. DEP staffing has been reduced by about 10 percent since 2006. Vitali said the budget also continues to use the Oil and Gas Lease Fund as a “cash cow” to balance the budget, diverting $67 million from the fund to help pay the day-to-day operations of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This is an addition to the $50 million automatically transferred to DCNR from this fund. The Oil and Gas Lease Fund was established to provide money for conservation, recreation, dams and flood control projects. Revenue for this fund Read more


Wolf energy plan would create jobs, save taxpayer money and help the environment

(Jun 01, 2015)

The energy investment plan contained in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal would create good, green jobs, save schools and municipalities money through reduced electric costs and help the environment. Those conclusions came from a panel that included representatives of energy companies, a suburban Philadelphia school official, farmers and a high-ranking member of the Wolf administration. They testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee during a hearing Monday in the state Capitol. Read more


Wolf budget would improve environmental protection

(Mar 05, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 5 – State Rep. Greg Vitali commended Gov. Tom Wolf on proposing a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year that would increase environmental protection and invest in renewable energy and conservation. “Considering the difficult fiscal challenges the Commonwealth faces, Pennsylvania’s environment fares very well in this budget,” said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. The proposed budget increases state funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection by 5.6 percent to $147 million. The Department received about $200 million in state funding in fiscal year 2007-08 and has been cut most years since then. The budget also would provide an additional 50 oil and gas inspectors to DEP, with funding coming from a severance tax proposed by the governor, according to Vitali. Wolf’s budget increases funding for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by 10 percent, from $137 million to $151 million. Unfortunately, Vitali said, $117 million of this amount would come from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, which receives its revenues from gas drilling on public land. The other $34 million would come from the General Fund. “Funding so much of DCNR with Oil and Gas Lease Fund money is a big problem because this money should be used for conservation purposes only,” Vitali said. Wind, solar and energy efficiency Read more


Pa. must cut greenhouse gasses, experts tell House panel

(Mar 02, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 2 – Pennsylvania, which produces almost 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, must use more renewable energy, become more energy efficient and reduce methane emissions to help address climate change, a panel of experts testified Monday. Read more


Legislation introduced to reduce Pennsylvania's greenhouse gas emissions

(Feb 19, 2015)

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 Read more


Vitali: Pennsylvania must work toward carbon neutrality

(Jan 26, 2015)

The world must become carbon neutral by mid to late century to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, according to a United Nations report released in November. And with Pennsylvania producing almost 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, it has a duty to work toward carbon neutrality. Rather than increasing the production of natural gas, Gov. Tom Wolf and the new legislature must work toward reducing all fossil-fuel use and shift to renewable energy. Over three-quarters of the energy consumed in Pennsylvania comes from fossil fuels — coal, natural gas, and oil — while only about 4 percent comes from renewable sources like wind and solar, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In recent years Pennsylvania has created a friendly environment for natural-gas production while doing little to increase renewables. It has foregone the imposition of a severance tax on the natural-gas industry, extended the largest tax break in state history to natural-gas cracker plants, and provided millions in grant money for the conversion of fleet vehicles to natural gas. While natural gas has the environmental benefit of displacing dirty, carbon-dioxide-emitting coal- fired power plants, it also has significant climate change drawbacks: The combustion of natural gas also emits significant quantities of carbon dioxide. Additionally, the main component of natural gas is methane, another potent greenhouse gas. Fugitive methane emissions pose a Read more


Vitali reappointed Democratic chairman of House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee

(Jan 05, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Jan. 5 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, was reappointed by Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, to serve as Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for the 2015-16 legislative session. Vitali served as Democratic chairman of the committee during the 2013-14 legislative session.In addition to advancing energy and environmental legislation, the committee oversees the state departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources.“This appointment puts me in a position to be a strong voice for good environmental policy,” Vitali said. "I thank Democratic leadership for their trust and I look forward to working on environmental initiatives.”Vitali plans to introduce five bills to help protect the environment. The bills would:Require electric distribution companies, such as PECO and PPL, to buy more of their power from wind, solar and other clean energy sources.Require rents and royalties from oil and gas leases on commonwealth-owned land to be used exclusively for conservation, recreation, dams or flood control projects.Provide $25 million per year to the now-defunct PA Sunshine Solar Program. The solar program has provided rebates to homeowners and small businesses that install solar systems.Impose a moratorium on additional leasing of state lands for natural gas drilling, exploration or production.Encourage electric and natural gas distribution utilities to implement energy efficiency and Read more