Democratic and Republican legislators from every corner of the commonwealth and from both chambers of the General Assembly are joining forces on groundbreaking legislation that would make Pennsylvania a leader in the effort to solve climate change. Matching bills were introduced this week by state Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., and state Sen. Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks.
The newly introduced legislation (H.B. 2132/S.B. 1140) sets out to transition Pennsylvania to 100% renewable energy by 2050. The scientific community in Pennsylvania and internationally have stated that we must eliminate global warming pollution by 2050 to avoid a climate change “tipping point” from which the planet cannot turn back.
“The vast majority of scientists agree: Climate change is real. And you don’t have to be a scientist to notice its effects,” said Rabb. “We’ve seen so many weather extremes in recent years, including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma and Maria. Those last three all happened just last year.”
He added: “Our military – hardly a liberal bastion – is already preparing for the effects of climate change. The changing climate will force us to move some bases, and it threatens to increase instability around the world. As the bipartisan American Security Project says, climate security is national security.”
While similar proposals are pending in state legislatures in California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington, as well as proposals in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, Pennsylvania’s proposal is groundbreaking in that it is the first bill of its kind in the country to be introduced with a Republican legislator as its chief sponsor.
“Clean, renewable energy holds the key to promoting a healthier environment, a stronger economy and a brighter future for future generations,” McIlhinney said. “The first steps in that process are developing a workable, realistic plan to transition to 100% renewable energy sources and ensuring our workforce is prepared to face the challenges of the new energy economy.”
Under this legislation, the commonwealth would be required to come up with a statewide plan to fully transition to renewables by 2050, in line with the most current science. The proposals would create a Clean Energy Transition Task Force, a Clean Energy Center of Excellence, and a Council for Clean Energy Workforce Development to develop the plan forward for the commonwealth.
Poll after poll shows broad bipartisan support for this issue from Pennsylvania voters. Last month, a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found that 71% of Pennsylvanians support Pennsylvania setting a goal of generating 100% of its electricity using clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power, including 52% support from Republicans polled.
In early April, a Franklin & Marshall poll showed that nearly 70% of Pennsylvanians believe that it’s more important to pursue policies that prioritize the availability of renewable energy over those that prioritize fossil fuel extraction.
“We have the technological ability and the support from Pennsylvania voters to transition to 100 percent renewable energy,” stated PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “We owe it to our kids, our grandkids, and the planet to use these tools to solve climate change as quickly as possible, and the legislation announced today will do just that.”
A broad network of nearly 150 Pennsylvania civic leaders and organizations have released a new letter in support of the legislation and calling for immediate action to solve climate change.
“Not only will climate change have incredibly negative effects on our environment, but it poses an extreme risk to the public’s health here in Pennsylvania and globally,” said Dr. Robert Little, president of the Harrisburg-Hershey chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and a family doctor in Harrisburg for over 40 years. “This includes more asthma attacks, heat-related deaths, and increases in diseases that were once rare in Pennsylvania like Lyme disease.”
Still, legislators acknowledge that they face a daunting battle in the state Capitol building, where lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry are numerous and incredibly influential.
“We see growing threats to our environment every day, and we can simply wait no longer to address climate change,” said Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery. “This legislation is Pennsylvania’s chance to commit to help preserve the one planet we have before it’s too late.”