From the Executive Director and Chief Counsel: Clean Air Council’s Priorities in 2018
The start of a new year provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the past, and plan for the future. This year we celebrated both the 50th anniversary of the Council and my 35th year working here; but it was a tough year for environmental protection. We struggled to move forward in addressing climate change, and getting Pennsylvania’s elected leaders to understand the great environmental and economic opportunities provided by the emerging green economy.
Clean Air Council has had many achievements since 1967. Today we know so much more about our environment and the devastating effects of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases. We know climate change is real.
Despite these victories, there are many days when I’m in no mood to celebrate our past accomplishments. We have lost so much ground recently. An outspoken climate change denier sits in our nation’s highest office, and we stand alone as the only country in the world not part of the Paris Agreement. In Pennsylvania, now the second largest natural gas producer in the US, methane leaks endanger the health of thousands. Meanwhile, new pipelines are tearing through our communities, and irresponsible drilling has resulted in dozens of spills.
I chose to be an environmental advocate in Pennsylvania and I have no choice but to be an optimist. While we will need to keep fighting the anti-environmental policies at the national and state level, I believe 2018 will offer new opportunities to block the growing anti-environmentalism among many of our elected officials. Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly want clean air, clean water and protected open spaces. In fact, it is guaranteed in Pennsylvania’s Constitution and thanks to groups like Clean Air Council and others, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has reinvigorated its application.
We have a lot to do in the coming year and thanks to our supporters I am convinced I know we’ll make great strides. Here are the Council’s priorities for 2018.
Stop the national rollbacks of environmental laws that protect public health and the environment: Elections have results, and each incoming administration will have its environmental priorities. However, the President of the United States and the heads of government agencies are bound by well-established rules and procedures. Promulgating regulations or the undoing of regulations must be based on real science. The Council is involved in a number of lawsuits against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s attempts to weaken environmental protections without legal justification. The Council is currently suing Donald Trump in his capacity as President for using junk science to overturn many of the laws and regulations in place that limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Ensure enforcement rules and regulations that protect public health and preservation of ecosystems in Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania is a state that has always been welcoming of extractive industries. Over the last few years it has deliberately underfunded the Department of Environmental Protection so that it can no longer do an adequate job of protecting public health and the environment through rigorous permit reviews, enforcement of existing laws and regulations, and monitoring of potential polluters. Groups like Clean Air Council are left to pick up the slack. We are up to the task and have no fear of suing the DEP or any industry if needed to protect public health. We also willingly lend our expertise to DEP as they develop and propose new regulations. Finally, we will continue to work with local governments throughout Pennsylvania on developing ordinances that limit where polluting sources can be sited.
Give voice to community members impacted by pollution: It is no secret that some communities are more impacted than others when it comes to being asked to host polluting facilities. Working to bring environmental justice to these communities is a top priority of Clean Air Council. The Council’s community organizers, engineers and lawyers help these citizens make their voices heard. The Council’s engineers have developed accurate, low cost air monitoring devices, designed to be loaned to communities, so concerned citizens can have the ability to monitor air pollution levels where they live, or where their children go to school.
Promoting the green economy: We need to move away from fossil fuel over-dependence. The history of fossil fuel extraction in Pennsylvania has left a terrible toll on our state’s environment. I am proud that the Clean Air Council is working with local governments big and small throughout Pennsylvania to move forward with energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Council continues to work to address barriers that stand in the way of expanding solar and wind power in Pennsylvania.
The Council depends on support from the public for all the important work we do. I love hearing feedback from our supporters on how they think the Council is doing, and about more ways we can help protect your right to breathe clean air. Please reach out to email@example.com and I will look forward to reading your feedback and suggestions!
Joseph Otis Minott, Esq
Executive Director and Chief Counsel