Just ahead of Earth Day, state officials said Pennsylvania will use federal money to tackle climate change.
The Climate Reduction Pollution Grants will help county and municipal officials reach emissions reduction goals set for 2030 and beyond, the Department of Environmental Protection said.
“All climate change is local,” said Rich Negrin, the department’s acting secretary. “It is an all of the above problem and needs an all of the above solution, and it is so important to have strong partners at the federal and local level all committing to fight climate change alongside us.”
Pennsylvania will tap into $3 million offered through the program – established as part of the federal infrastructure bill – to assist states with any stage of planning meant to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission will receive up to $1 million each as the first participants in the program.
“We have a monumental opportunity to protect and improve our land, water and air,” said Becky Bradley, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. “We must ensure that quality and availability of these resources is available now and into the future.”
Urban areas are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. According to the EPA, the Delaware Valley is shrinking, and the Delaware River will continue rising over the next century – a combination that will result in increased flooding throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.
In addition to severe weather and increased temperature, state officials say diminishing air quality harms vulnerable populations like children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular diseases – and even wildlife.
Few issues divide the legislature the way climate change does, particularly when it comes to cutting carbon emissions. As Pennsylvania’s future participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative hangs in the balance, many Republican lawmakers worry the carbon price it imposes on energy producers will just spike utility costs for residents at a time when they can least afford it.
Cost aside, they say, switching from coal to natural gas already lowered emissions significantly over the last decade. They believe taxing power generators will only undermine Pennsylvania’s role as the region’s top energy exporter while doing nothing to prevent carbon emissions from blowing across the border from neighboring states.
Democrats say the “fearmongering” only serves the natural gas industry – arguably the state’s most lucrative in recent years – and distracts from the true threat climate change poses on communities and public health.
PENNVEST Chairman Dr. Brian Regli offered a more optimistic outlook.
“Pennsylvania has always been an industrial leader, with smart investments we can again lead the way on climate change and carbon pollution reduction,” he said.
EPA Region 3 Administrator Adam Ortiz shared this sense of hopefulness about the work ahead.
“Climate change is not a problem that sprang up overnight and is surely not one that will be fixed in a day,” he said. “Addressing the climate crisis takes real plans, real dollars, real will, and real work – and Pennsylvania has all of the above.”
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