Pennsylvania's Terrible Environmental Record May Improve Governor-Elect Rendell's Administration Brings Hope
This article excerpted from Grist Magazine at http://www.gristmagazine.com/dearme/hanger121002.asp
Usually, late November and early December are slower times because the legislature is out. But not this year. Thanks to many factors -- the machinations of the Bush administration, our state's transition to a new governor, and the Pennsylvania lame duck legislative session -- this has been a very busy time.
Everyone in the environmental community, has been working hard to counter the federal government's spin on its cutback of the Clean Air Act. How will the administration's attack on clean air will affect Pennsylvanians? According to reports by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and the Clean Air Task Force, the effects will be devastating.
More than one million people in our state already suffer from respiratory problems, most of them children and the elderly. And more than 2,200 Pennsylvanians die each year from pollution from the "dirty dinosaur" power plants both in-state and to our west. The government's failure to force utilities to clean up these old plants has already created grave health risks here, and the Bush plan would halt any progress we have made.
Now that the Bush administration made their Orwellian announcement that they were going to gut New Source Review regulations in order to clean up the air (this decade's version of "Destroy the village in order to save it"), we need to work hard to make sure that everyone in Pennsylvania understands exactly how bad this new policy will be for our state. We need to make sure governor-elect Rendell and his advisors know how important it is for Pennsylvania to protect public health from pollution, even when the federal government can't or won't.
The environmental community here has high hopes for Ed Rendell (D). He sought and received the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters and other environmental groups, and he consulted with many in the community during his campaign. And while he didn't always agree with us 100 percent on every issue, his efforts to bring us to the table were a breath of fresh air for many. An administration more amenable to environmental protection would be a great improvement to the well-being of Pennsylvanians.
But promises are one thing. Now comes the hard part. And we all know that personnel is policy, so who gets appointed to which positions will go a long way toward determining how environmental policy is set in the state.
So far, though, we are pleased with the appointment of the co-chairs for the transition team for the environment, especially the choice of Caren Glotfelty, program director for environmental grantmaking for the Heinz Endowments. Caren's record of commitment to the environment and her understanding of how government works will serve our state well. And John Hanger of PennFuture and former member of the Public Utility Commission, was named a co-chair of the energy transition team -- a tribute to the great work PennFuture does on renewable energy.
Pennsylvania now has an opportunity for leadership in building and using clean renewable energy. That would help economic development, public health, and the environment. After all, changing what kind of energy we use is the single most important thing anyone can do to help the environment. The average Pennsylvania family that switches from traditional electricity to 100 percent green energy does as much good for the environment as planting 950 trees. Thanks to tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians who are buying green energy, our state is already the regional leader in wind power.
Continued conservation work is critical because we are only just beginning to make progress in the state legislature. We need more pro-environment elected officials, responsive to a growing coalition of supporters, if we want to move Pennsylvania ahead on these issues. And the growing environmental coalition was really the untold story of this legislative session.
As Bertrand Russell warned us, "Change is one thing, progress is another."
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