Pennsylvania Poll on Climate Change

According to a new poll from State Impact PA and Franklin & Marshall, 40% of Pennsylvania respondents stated that they have been personally affected by climate change. See why here.

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Biggest Threat to Humanity? Climate Change

by Ryan Molloy

 

During a press conference in New York last Thursday, the president of the United Nations (Antonio Guterres) delivered strong words about what this nation’s biggest threat is. Many were expecting answers similar to nuclear attacks, civil war, etc. Although Guterres stated his belief that the biggest threat to humanity is climate change, Guterres then mentioned that the economic cost of climate related disaster has hit a staggering $320 billion. He expresses concern of how many more “alarm bells” need to go off before the issue is taken as seriously as it should be.

Focusing on emissions, Guterres is holding a United Nations Summit on Climate change next year, specifically targeting government leaders to strengthen their pledges that they have made to curb emissions under the Paris agreement before 2020. Although Trump has announced the United States’ departure from the Paris agreement, it does not end until 2020. With that being said, not only do government leaders need to do their part but business leaders and powerful investors also play crucial roles as well. Guterres believes that all around the world the role of government is becoming less and less relevant and the role of the economy and society is playing a larger role. American businesses and society has done a great job in enforcing the Paris Agreement. Unlike American businesses, the government is doing the exact opposite and completely withdrawing from the agreement. Guterres still holds out hope that he can get the Trump administration to stay with the Paris Agreement.

Link: https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3029467/un-secretary-general-climate-change-the-most-systemic-threat-to-humankind

EPA, Subject to Change

by Isa Molewijk

There has been a lot of controversy around the appointment of Scott Pruitt as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. The walking contradiction of an anti-environmentalist in charge of the EPA has been subject to both outrage and applause all over the world. Now Pruitt is under fire for several scandals about his spending habits, like the deal to rent a Capitol Hill condominium linked to a gas industry lobbyist. Headlines like ‘White house considered firing Scott Pruitt’ and ‘Scott Pruitt’s bizarre condo scandal and mounting ethics questions’ scatter the news. Even republicans openly question Pruitt’s legitimacy. Furthermore, it strikes a more fundamental question about the existence of the EPA and the overall United States political system. How could an anti-environmentalist become chief of the EPA in the first place? And who will stand for the environment in times of Global Warming?

In the Netherlands there was a similar case of a ‘walking contradiction’ when anti-immigration-politician Rita Verdonk was appointed minister of Integration and Immigration.[1] With an increasing amount of refugees in Europe from war-torn countries, Verdonk sought to sharpen immigration laws and regulations. During her term (2003-2007) her directness and dehumanizing policies earned her the nickname ‘Iron Rita’. Fortunately, she did not get all policies through. Mainly because of the existence of the Dutch Council for Refugees, a Non-Governmental Organization (although partially government funded) which is leading in expertise and lobbies immigration policies to the House of Representatives.[2] They work close together with the government and when the government does not take their advice they use the media to demand consideration. In every branch of government there is a non-governmental agency that needs to be reckoned with. Their non-governmental nature causes them to solely have their purpose at mind, not worrying about re-election or presidential appointments. In the case of environmental policy, the Dutch government sets the frameworks, but the law is mostly shaped by non-governmental agency Stichting Natuur & Milieu (Nature and Environment).[3]

 

The Trump Administration and appointment of Scott Pruitt seemed to perish all hope for environmental protection in the U.S. However, it was an executive order from president Nixon that created the EPA in the first place. Maybe Scott Pruitt should not be on fire for non-surprising unethical behavior, but the entire political system that got him to be chief in the first place. Maybe the EPA should have a less governmental nature and there should be more non-governmental third party organizations to be reckoned with. It is time to be creative and demand change in a fundamental anti-environmental system. After all, environmental protection should not be linked to being a republican or democrat: we all breath the same air and we will all suffer the consequences of human-fueled global warming.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scott-pruitt-epa-condo-rental_us_5ac25b2ee4b04646b644ffb1

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Verdonk

[2] https://www.vluchtelingenwerk.nl/english

[3] https://www.natuurenmilieu.nl/english/

PA Clean Transportation Infrastructure Bill Approved By House Committee

by Nadirah Wilson

On March 12th, the PA Clean Transportation Infrastructure Bill was approved by the House Committee. Under this bill establishment; “House Bill 1446”, there will be more encouragement and support on infrastructure for electric and natural gas fueled vehicles. Pennsylvania will create a state goal of expanding our electric transportation usage by at least 50 percent over baseline forecasts by 2030. Also, the state will direct the development of regional transportation plans so Pennsylvanians will be able to continue to live, and work all the while transitioning to electric. The requirements includes utilities to submit infrastructure investment proposals based on the regional frameworks that help cost-effectively build out backbone charging infrastructure that meets their local needs. In the proposal they must complete a statewide interstate and turnpike fast electronic natural gas refueling networks, and create opportunities to increase the exportation of natural gas vehicles to support fleets and other high-value uses. The main sponsor of the bill, Representative Marguerite Quinn stated that electric powered cars are becoming more affordable for both business and personal use. Although electric powered cars are on the rise, people have been reluctant on consuming these products because of the lack of charging and refueling stations. Fortunately, with the new legislation and passing of the new bill there will be more stations available in the future. This new legislation is very beneficial to the economy and the environment, because alternative fuel vehicles provides a great opportunity to obtain a clean environment. Pennsylvania will be a leader in adopting these new technologies, succeeding in environmental friendliness.

PA’s Constitutional Amendment on the Environment Gets Some Recognition

This article by Donna Morelli outlines how two recent court cases in Pennsylvania have bolstered the strength of environmental rights in the Commonwealth.

She argues that

twice in the last four years, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has rendered decisions putting teeth in the environmental rights amendment — first, in a lawsuit over whether communities have the power to bar hydraulic fracturing and, later, over how the legislature is spending revenue derived from leasing state forestland for “fracking,” as the controversial natural gas extraction method is known.

Read more here: http://www.circleofblue.org/2018/world/pennsylvanias-environmental-rights-amendment-grows-teeth/

Cars, California and Federalism

by Catherine Long

A common theme among the blog posts we have discussed throughout the semester has been President Trump’s dedication to reversing most Obama-era policies in relation to the environment. This article continues this theme, however there is also an added element of federalism at work. Through the 1970 Clean Air Act, the EPA has worked to reduce the emissions from cars by setting stricter fuel economy standards. Under President Obama, great strides were taken to ensure this would be the case until 2025, almost ten years after his departure. The 1970 Clean Air Act also allowed for waivers to be given to states who wanted to set their own fuel economy standards. California has participated in this system and wishes to set stricter fuel economy standards in order to encourage growth in the electric car sector. However, upon taking office, President Trump assured the automobile industry that he along with the head of the EPA Scott Pruitt would review the standards set by the EPA under President Obama and that he would set the standards at a level that would allow cars to be made in America again. Appealing to the growth of the economy and an increase in American manufacturing has been a tactic President Trump has used since his Presidential campaign. However, California plans to move ahead with its stricter standards. This creates a dilemma because car manufacturers have to decide whether to follow California’s standards in order for their cars to be bought in that state or follow the much lower national standards and potentially lose buyers in California. In order to solve this dilemma, California has tried to negotiate with the Trump administration by stating that they will lower their standards if Trump prolongs the Obama-era standards until 2030. This article offers an interesting insight into how states are attempting to influence environmental policy under a President who doesn’t subscribe to environmentally friendly policy.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/03/13/epa-administrator-pruitt-says-california-is-not-the-arbiter-of-the-nations-emission-standards/?utm_term=.e260c6f1af6d

California’s Cap and Trade Program

by Stephanie Laurancy

This article discusses California’s efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions particularly through discussing the extension of the cap-and-trade program. Republican assemblyman Matias Davis, was one of eight republican state legislators to support the cap and trade extension which would add a decade extending it to 2030. Cap-and-trade limits (puts a “cap” on) companies thus minimizing the number of greenhouses gasses they emit. Should the companies exceed the limit, they may be penalized and penalties may become more strict overtime. The trade portion comes in as a market where companies can buy or sell allowances that permit them to emit only a certain amount of emissions. Although the “cap” portion of cap and trade may be very strict, the trade part provides a great incentive for companies to save money by reducing emissions. Republicans in the state typically do not support the cap-and-trade as it has been describing as “government overreach”. Cap-and-trade has helped with the reduction of carbon emissions; however, the program still faces strong opposition.

The idea of the program being considered to be “government overreach” raises the point that we discussed in class: Should the government get involved in environmental policy?

I would love to hear your opinions on the article.