The King of Prussia Mall is the largest suburban mall in the Philadelphia region with 400 stores, and a total of 31,500 people employed at the mall and nearby office parks. The mall is visited by about 68,000 people daily with 5,600 bus riders using six routes to and from the KOP area. Unfortunately, there is currently no rapid transit to get commuters and shoppers to the mall. That is why SEPTA and the King of Prussia business community are planning to extend the Norristown High Speed Line, which skirts the edge of the KOP currently, the rest of the way to King of Prussia.
Currently, it can take commuters from Philadelphia as much as two hours to get to work in King of Prussia on the bus, and drivers take an average of 70 minutes – both while navigating the unpredictable beast known as the Schuylkill Expressway. A light rail connection would ease the burden on our transit system and reduce traffic on the already congested expressways near the mall.According to the proposal, the new rail line would take around 40 minutes for the same trip, and offer an appealing option for people who have the choice between driving or public transit.
Clean Air Council was there to express its support for the project. Not only does the Council believe it will ease the commutes of transit riders and mall employees, this project will have a ripple effect on the region’s traffic problem. The more reliable transit lines the Delaware Valley has, the more likely commuters will choose to leave the car behind. This will ultimately reduce emissions, and let us all breathe a little easier.
The Council wrote a letter voicing its support, and sent Kamali Alloway, Sustainable Transportation and Special Events Outreach Coordinator, to read the letter aloud at the public hearing. You can read the letter here, and watch a video of Alloway reading the letter below. This project is still in the first stage, and its projected completion date is a few years away. Clean Air Council will keep you updated on developments as they occur.
[Nov. 06, 2017-PHILADELPHIA] — On behalf of Clean Air Council and two Pennsylvania children, Hausfeld filed suit today in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the federal government to prevent it from rolling back policies, programs, laws, rules, and regulations previously in place to address and ameliorate climate change and its consequences. This pro bono litigation focuses on the federal government’s knowledge (dating back over fifty years) that climate change presents a clear and present danger to life, and represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet. You can read the full complaint here.
The United States has experienced a steady increase in extreme weather events caused by climate change, as exemplified most recently by the devastating impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the October California wildfires. If not adequately addressed, climate change will cause human deaths, shorten human life spans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, drastically affect human air quality, and dramatically alter the planet’s ecosystem to the detriment of the plaintiffs in this case, their children and grandchildren, and all future generations.
The federal government has relied on junk science to implement reckless climate change policies in the face of indisputable U.S. and international scientific consensus. It is the government’s responsibility to protect the lives and welfare of citizens and the life-sustaining resources they depend on. These acts of deliberate indifference are increasing U.S. contributions to climate change, thereby increasing the frequency and intensity of its life-threatening effects, and violating the constitutional rights of all U.S. citizens.
Plaintiffs are leading Philadelphia environmental nonprofit Clean Air Council and two child plaintiffs who have been personally impacted by climate change. The Federal Government Defendants include President Donald Trump, the Department of Energy, Secretary Rick Perry, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel Joseph Minott said: “We will not stand idly by while President Trump and his agencies raze crucial environmental protections, ignore climate science, dispute well-documented facts and force future generations of Americans to suffer the consequences of this administration’s reckless choices and ignorant policies. We must hold the federal government accountable for the long-term environmental harm that is propagating under its direction. It’s time to fight back.”
Scientists refer to climate change as the most important issue of our time. Human contribution to climate change, which exacerbates its effects, has reached a critical moment, the consequences of which are potentially irreversible. Hausfeld Chairman Michael D. Hausfeld stated: “By deliberately engaging in this rollback of climate policies and programs, the government is affirmatively endangering the lives and welfare of its citizens.”
This lawsuit comes on the heels of the federal government’s release of the National Climate Assessment, which, in stark contrast to the administration’s environmental policies, affirms that climate change is almost entirely caused by human action and is a growing threat to the United States.
Hausfeld attorneys working on this case include Michael D. Hausfeld, Seth R. Gassman, Katie R. Beran, Braden Beard, and Michaela Spero.
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:
(215) 564-3200 ext. 162
NOTES TO EDITORS
Hausfeld is a leading global law firm with offices in Berlin, Boston, Brussels, Düsseldorf, London, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. The firm has a broad range of complex litigation expertise, particularly in antitrust/competition, financial services, sports and entertainment, environmental, mass torts, consumer protection, and human rights matters, often with an international dimension. Hausfeld aims to achieve the best possible results for clients through its practical and commercial approach, avoiding litigation where feasible, yet litigating robustly when necessary. Hausfeld’s extensive experience with alternative and innovative fee models offers clients a diverse menu of engagement options and maximum flexibility in terms of managing their cost exposure.
Hausfeld is the only claimants’ firm to be ranked by the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners as a top tier firm in private enforcement of antitrust/competition law in both the United States and the United Kingdom. For more information about the firm, including recent trial victories and landmark settlements, please visit: www.hausfeld.com.
About Clean Air Council
Clean Air Council is a member-supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone’s right to breathe clean air. The Council is headquartered in Philadelphia and works through public education, community organizing, advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit www.cleanair.org.
On July 27, 2017, the Pennsylvania Senate approved a revenue package that will further decimate the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), threatening public health and damaging our environment in the process. By the slimmest of margins, the Senate voted 26-24 to adopt amendments to the Tax Code bill – House Bill 542 – which does achieve one of Governor Wolf’s long-sought goals, a severance tax on the extraction of natural gas from unconventional wells. On its own, this is a worthy policy goal. However, in exchange for what amounts to a paltry revenue increase, the Senate approved a series of environmental riders wanted by industry groups that gut DEP’s ability to act in the public interest. This is unacceptable; the state budget is not the place to debate critical protections for our air, water, and public health. DEP’s budget has already been slashed by 40 percent over the last 13 years – resulting in the loss of over 22 percent of its staff – and HB 542 would undermine DEP’s authority going forward and pose an immediate threat to Governor Wolf’s proposed commonsense controls on methane pollution.
In February, DEP published proposed general permits (GP-5 and GP-5A) that would establish cost-effective controls on methane pollution from new sources in the unconventional natural gas industry. These permits will protect public health, the environment, and Pennsylvania’s economy. Following extensive input from stakeholders and members of the public, the 120-day public comment period on the permits closed on June 5. While DEP is currently working to finalize the permits, HB 542 would allow the General Assembly to unilaterally weaken or eliminate them. Instead of working with the agency or going through the standard legislative process, this bill would create a new “Air Quality Permit Advisory Committee” – dominated by members handpicked by the legislature – that would have ultimate authority to approve (or disapprove) the permits once finalized. The bill prohibits DEP from submitting the permits to this “Committee” before 2018 and would allow industry-backed lawmakers to effectively veto these much-needed commonsense protections. This unprecedented hurdle to environmental protection is not grounded in science or designed to protect public health, it’s a transparent political game to benefit the gas industry.
Another amendment to the bill directs DEP to establish a program for third-party review of any permits issued by the agency, effectively privatizing the oil and gas permitting process in the Commonwealth. DEP would be required to contract with third-party permit reviewers, and the bill’s language includes no provisions for any supervision of these individuals or for accountability. Disturbingly, there are no conflict-of-interest provisions in the bill and permit applicants are allowed to handpick their own reviewer among those contracted with DEP. That means there is nothing to prevent a consultant from reviewing his own application. Furthermore, there are no provisions dealing with public participation, meaning there is no guarantee that third-parties handling permit applications will hold a public hearing or allow for public comment. This ill-advised approach will cede our public servants’ responsibility to protect public health and the environment to unaccountable private interests. It will undermine the integrity of the permit review process while limiting public participation and allowing for rampant self-dealing.
Finally, there is a provision stating that any permit for unconventional oil and gas development is simply “deemed approved” unless DEP denies it within the relevant timeframe (which varies from 30 to 45 to 60 days depending on the situation). Even if the relevant review period is extended for cause, this provision would require that DEP refund the permit review fee to the applicant. This radical approach puts the burden on DEP – intentionally underfunded and understaffed – to rush its permit review process and allows for the automatic approval of permits that have not been subject to appropriate agency review or public scrutiny.
Put it all together, and it is clear that HB 542 is a direct assault on Pennsylvania citizens’ fundamental, constitutionally-protected rights to clean air and pure water. Rolling back environmental and public health protections won’t balance the budget – all it does is give drillers a license to pollute. Governor Wolf has political concerns over his reelection and, in his single-minded pursuit of a severance tax, he has cut a bad deal for the people of the Commonwealth that needlessly trades away clean air and water protections. This deal should be rejected as an affront to our fundamental rights and to responsible stewardship of our public natural resources.
On June, 1st 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he was pulling the United States, the second largest greenhouse gas polluter on earth after China, out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
This move came only a year and a half after, for the first time, nearly every nation on earth came to a unanimous agreement on the reality of a changing climate. In December 2015, after weeks of intense negotiation, countries committed to help solve the problem by signing the Paris accord. All nations on this planet (except Syria because it is currently in a civil war and Nicaragua because the deal didn’t go far enough) agreed to a clear target: keep the global average temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, as compared to rising temperatures during the 19th century before the industrial revolution.
The agreement recognized the prevailing climate scientific consensus: that after a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature, we risk dramatic changes in weather patterns, food and water crises and an overall more hostile world. Currently, if fossil fuel use stays the same and we do nothing to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, we could warm the planet up to 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century.
Trump’s main reason for leaving the accord was because he said it was “a bad deal,” for the US. The Paris accord, however, was not “a deal” in the way Trump uses the phrase. The agreement did not mandate any nation to abide by a specific negotiated obligation. The agreement states that the 2-degree goal would be achieved by cutting emissions “as soon as possible” based on a country’s specific reduction targets. The agreement doesn’t detail exactly how countries should reach its national targets. Rather, it provides a framework for gaining momentum on greenhouse gas reduction. This means that every government involved in the Paris talks had the option of deciding how much it would reduce its own emissions, based on what it thought it could deliver. So no one actually got a bad deal, because everyone defined their own terms.
At this point, 197 countries (which equal 98.9% of global emissions) already have submitted their national climate targets, which they want to pursue to bring down their emissions. The US—a country with just over 4 percent of the world’s population, but responsible for almost a third of the excess carbon dioxide that is heating the planet—agreed to lower emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In context, this is a fairly moderate reduction as compared to other Global North nations. The European Union pledged, as a group of 28 countries, to cut emissions by 40%. The United State’s main tools to achieve its promised reduction were Obama era climate policies such as the Clean Power Plan and stricter fuel emissions standards. These policies are not only aimed at accelerating the current pace of electricity de-carbonization (reducing the emissions of electricity generated) and implementing green energy, but also reducing health-damaging ambient particle pollution (mainly due to fuel combustion from cars and power plants) and ozone.
First of all, let’s be clear on what a withdrawal means: President Trump announced his intention to withdraw via the accord’s formal process—which cannot begin until 3 years after the Agreement entered into force: meaning November 2019. Also, the Trump administration plans to follow the accord’s formal withdrawal mechanism, a long legal process that will take at least a year to carry out. The official exit of the US from the agreement will not come until around November 2020—coincidentally coinciding with the next presidential election. It should also be noted that a future administration could always rejoin.
This doesn’t mean that the Trump administration can’t do damage in the interim. President Trump’s decision to leave the agreement is the most significant in that it’s a clear signal of the direction in which he plans to take federal environmental and energy policy. He will keep trying to dismantle climate-friendly policies, including the Clean Power Plan, which sought to curtail emissions from power plants, and various regulations on methane leaks from oil and gas operations. Whether or not he’ll be successful is still far from assured, since it will take years to carry out a process of withdrawing and revising science-based regulations. This process will also possibly be affected by a slew of legal challenges by cities, states, and environmental groups. Nevertheless, it is likely that coal, oil, and gas will have less regulatory oversight than current levels. A recent analysis suggests that if Trump’s plans go forward, emissions will still fall between 15 to 19 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 as opposed to the 26-28 percent the U.S. aspired to in the Paris talks due to market forces.
Additionally, experts see another impact of the Trump presidency and withdrawal from the accord: his favoring of fossil fuels over green energy will likely have repercussions on US businesses. U.S. businesses may miss out on the booming clean energy marketplace worldwide that the Paris Agreement is accelerating. For example, China is already investing more than double than the US in clean energy and its carbon emissions have stayed flat or declined for the past 3 years. India and Europe, which, have a booming solar and wind industry and are on an irreversible path toward green development. These are the future world leaders in green energy, not the United States.
For many of us, this is all understandably very distressing. But there is a reason for optimism.
As President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt bury their heads deeper and deeper into the sand, local efforts to stop climate change are intensifying. States like California and New York—whose combined economies comprise the fourth largest economy on earth—have vowed to pursue their own power plant and vehicle emission reduction programs. Even red states like Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota or Texas get it: the largest percentage of these state’s power is from wind energy. And the private sector is already shifting toward cleaner and more cost-efficient energies regardless of the federal government’s political stances. And just last month, Philadelphia among more than 250 US cities pledged to run entirely on renewable sources such as wind and solar energy by 2035.
As such, green energy employment opportunities are growing rapidly. Jobs in the green energy sector are already growing 12 times faster than the overall US economy. Here in Pennsylvania, the number of clean-energy jobs is up 15% in just two years. Now more than 66,000 workers are employed in the renewable energy sector—about twice as many PA workers in mining, oil and gas combined. Nationally, there are 1.2 million green energy jobs in states that voted for Trump already (out of 2.6 million across the US).
However, to keep this trend up, it is important that local lawmakers keep expanding and renewing green policies. Elected officials need to hear from their constituents. Just recently, over 11,000 comments were submitted to the PA Department of Environmental Protection in support of natural gas pollution standards. Join the chorus of voices who support green energy, cleaner air, and healthier communities. Call, send a letter, or send an email to your elected official and demand action on climate change.
(June 20, 2017) – Pennsylvania elected officials held a hearing Tuesday morning to discuss regulatory oversight in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Representatives from oil and gas, manufacturing, finance, and environmental advocates testified before the panel. Environmental standards and regulations, specifically methane protections, were discussed by a number of panelists including PennFuture and Range Resources. In response, Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council, released the following statement:
“The oil and gas industry openly admitted that they are not looking for “regulatory relief” but want DEP to address delays in issuing permits. This is directly related to DEP not having enough funding to properly do their job, not about regulations that would drastically cut air pollution.”
About Clean Air Council
Clean Air Council is Pennsylvania’s oldest member-supported environmental nonprofit, fighting for everyone’s right to breathe clean air since 1967. Through research, public education and advocacy, the Council empowers citizens to fight for policies and practices that create healthier communities and a healthier environment. Clean Air Council believes everyone has a right to breathe clean air. For more information about Clean Air Council, visit www.cleanair.org.
Katie Edwards – firstname.lastname@example.org, 215-567-4004, ext. 102
The United States is experiencing a period of unusually warm temperatures. The year 2017 is off to the warmest start since the beginning of weather recordings, putting this year on a path to break all previous records. Though, 2016 did that too. And so did 2015. In fact, since 2014, every year has broken the record for being the warmest since these trackings began. Global warming, according to the vast majority of climate scientists, is causing this trend. Just recently a group of climate experts from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) published a study concluding that climate change has had a substantial effect on recent extreme weather events, such as the historic flooding in Texas almost exactly a year ago.
Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus based on hard evidence that changing climate is real, some Americans still don’t believe in climate change or have serious doubts about it. A recent study by Yale University asked people across the United States about their views on global warming. The study revealed that an estimated 30% of Americans still do not believe climate change is real and about half of the adults in the US are not even alarmed or concerned about the issue. This willful blindness seems hard to understand, especially since the number climate-related disasters—from heat waves to catastrophic floods—has more than tripled since 1980 affecting people all over the country. Why is it so hard for many in the U.S. to believe that climate change is real, when so many climate experts agree that the impact is likely devastating?
Like any big problem, humans struggle to solve, climate change has a lot to do with psychology. Anthony Leiserowitz, head of Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication, stated in a recently-released video: “I like to say that climate change is the policy problem from hell. You almost couldn’t design a worse problem as a fit with our underlying psychology, or the ways our institutions make decisions.”
What does Leiserowitz mean?
First, climate change feels and seems very far away in the future. It doesn’t really seem to pose an immediate threat to us. Our brain is mainly responsive—and quick to boot—when faced with clearly visible and immediate threats. As former hunters and gatherers, this ability to respond to the danger we can sense is upon us is a skill we honed for hundred millions of years—and it’s what enabled our species to survive. Reacting within milliseconds to avoid a car crash or to duck when something is speeding towards us is something we are instinctively good at. But knowing how to react now to something which will happen many years from now, is fairly new to us.
Furthermore, when it comes to climate change, even the physical elements of the changes we see over time are not like those we’re used to having to react to. Our brains are incredibly sensitive to quickly alternating elements such as light, temperature or sound. Climate is often confused with the weather but they two are separate things. Weather change is when a day goes from rain to the sun within minutes or hours, or when it’s hot at one point of the day and then a few hours later, you throw on a hoody to brace against a chill. Climate change is a very slow, almost imperceptibly so. It is a moving threat that evolves over multiple decades and thus is basically invisible to our brains.
Climate change may lay in the scientific sphere, but psychology can help explain why humans have trouble grasping climate change and why we aren’t taking more concrete steps to address the problem. Unfortunately, psychology doesn’t give us a clear roadmap for how to get society as a whole to grapple with this issue, sooner rather than later. What we do know is that climate change is a problem that can no longer be left to future generations. We now know fairly accurately how to predict the timing and location of dangers before they actually happen. So we need to keep working on confronting both challenges of climate and human psychology upon us. We must keep seeking ways to motivate a critical mass of people to realize that our generation will pay for climate change sooner or later and that it is smarter to act while we still have the widest range of alternatives instead of waiting until our options become increasingly limited, while the impact grows.
This is the first in a series of blogs about climate change and how it impacts our lives. We will explore the questions and issues related to climate change that aren’t normally discussed by politicians or the scientific community. To make sure you don’t miss any posts, sign up for the Council’s newsletter or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.