On Thursday, Councilman Mark Squilla, Chair of the Streets and Services Committee, introduced three bills on the Council floor proposing two new bike lanes, and eliminating parking along Torresdale Avenue where the Pennypack Trail crosses in Holmesburg.
This came a day after the Streets and Services Committee moved forward on the bills. According to Plan Philly, City Spokesman Mike Dunn told them in an email that he hopes the lanes will be open by the end of the year.
One of the proposed bike lanes would be installed along Race Street between 8th and 5th streets in Chinatown. This particular corridor is heavily trafficked, especially during rush hour, with vehicles headed toward the Ben Franklin Bridge. Race Street turns from three to four lanes that are not clearly marked, adding to potential driver confusion.
The new lane would be parking protected from 8th to 6th, and would also create a much safer connection between Chinatown and Franklin Square, which is one of the only green spaces in the neighborhood.
The second bill is to install non-protected bike lanes in both directions along Island Avenue and Enterprise Ave in Southwest Philadelphia near the airport. These lanes will allow cyclists who work in this business and industrial area a safe path from nearby transit stops like the Eastwick Regional Rail Station.
The third bill, proposed in committee by Councilman Henon, removes parking along the 8100 block of Torresdale Avenue in order to allow Pennypack Trail users a clear place to cross the road. This is a wooded stretch of Torresdale Avenue is a key crossing point of the 14.4 mile trail that runs from Huntingdon Valley in Montgomery County all the way to Holmesburg in Northeast Philadelphia.
We spoke with Councilman Squilla briefly outside City Council chambers. “Councilman Henon introduced a bill, and we’re strongly in favor of the bill to allow the trail to continue,” Councilman Squilla said.” “I think it’s a great way to have more open space.”
All three of these are key to the success of Philadelphia’s Vision Zero plan. Safe connections like the Pennypack Trail at Torresdale Avenue will allow people to pursue alternative modes of transportation, and ease the pollution and congestion cars produce every day.
“This just lends the City’s upward motion to keep people who have different modes of transportation and ways of getting to different locations through this trail connector which is a great thing for not only the City but hopefully throughout the Commonwealth,” Councilman Squilla said. “Any time you can have dedicated trails, and people where they are put in a place where it’s safer to transverse, it definitely will help with our plan for Vision Zero.”
Today, Clean Air Council on behalf of 7000 contributors and 35,000 activists across Pennsylvania launched a new campaign imploring Gov. Wolf to step up and start to lead by taking action on climate. The effort kicks off with digital ads on multiple news sites and an online grassroots petition.
Dangerous weather is brewing. The major uptick in extreme weather events is a clear sign that the climate is changing at a rapid pace. Recently, Americans experienced the bitter cold of the “bomb cyclone” in the East, a massive winter wildfire outside of Los Angeles, and unusually low western snowpack. Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2017 was the third hottest year on record (only slightly behind 2015 and 2016).
Now, the Trump Administration is aggressively rolling back vital protections to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and carbon emissions from the power sector – while beginning the process to undermine required emission reductions in the transportation sector as well.
The case for strong state action has never been clearer.
Without strong action from Gov. Tom Wolf, the massive amounts of climate-changing pollution, both methane and carbon dioxide, spewing from Pennsylvania’s vast energy infrastructure could go unchecked. Governors, mayors, and major corporations across the country are voicing their commitment to meet ambitious climate goals— yet the state of Pennsylvania, the 3rd largest greenhouse gas polluter in the nation with tens of thousands of active oil and gas wells and dozens of coal-fired power plants, is missing in action.
Thankfully, our local elected officials are stepping up to protect Pennsylvania communities. The mayors of Allentown, Ambler, Bethlehem, Downington, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, State College and Swarthmore have all pledged to work to secure the pollution reductions committed to under the Paris Climate Agreement.
And just today, Pennsylvania Sens. Jay Costa and Wayne Fontana from Pittsburgh stepped up with a bold vision for action, introducing legislation directing the state to take concrete actions to secure meaningful reductions in carbon pollution and to achieve ambitious economy-wide climate goals.
Unfortunately, Gov. Tom Wolf has failed to lead on climate change. It is time to change that.
During his initial 2014 run for office, Gov. Wolf acknowledged that tackling methane emissions from oil and gas operations was critical to our environment. And just one year into his administration, he pledged to cut methane emissions from new and existing drilling operations across the state.
Fast forward to today, and we are still waiting for Gov. Wolf to introduce a proposal that would limit emissions from tens of thousands of oil and gas wells that operate today that put the health of our communities at risk. Not only is methane a powerful climate change pollutant, but these drilling operations release smog-forming pollutants that pollute the air we breathe. Cutting methane would address climate change and protect our health by helping to reduce the rate of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Gov. Wolf also vowed to limit carbon pollution from Pennsylvania’s power sector, clearly indicating on the campaign trail that he supported working with other states to clean up our air and secure our climate. Despite this promise, and in stark contrast to bold action taken in nearby Virginia to reduce carbon pollution from the state’s power plants, Gov. Wolf has again failed to lead.
With federal policies now in shambles, inaction is no longer an option for Pennsylvanians. By not acting, Governor Wolf is putting the health and welfare of Pennsylvania communities in the hands of Washington climate change denying bureaucrats and industry lobbyists – that is unacceptable.
That is why the Clean Air Council has launched a campaign calling on Gov. Wolf to lead and act on climate change.
Governor Wolf can and should fulfill two long overdue promises made to Pennsylvania voters during his last campaign by moving forward to:
- cut methane pollution from existing oil and gas operations; and
- set a hard limit on carbon pollution from Pennsylvania’s power sector.
He had it right back in 2014—put Pennsylvania in the driver’s seat by moving ahead with ambitious policies to tackle two significant sources of climate pollution in the Commonwealth. Inaction is no longer an option.
Pennsylvanians deserve better—real leadership on a deeply urgent problem.
Want to help? Sign our petition telling Gov. Wolf to act now on climate change.
Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) announced its plan to reduce air pollution from existing oil and natural gas facilities in the Commonwealth. Pennsylvanians had been waiting for this critical step for almost two years, which made it all the more frustrating to see that DEP’s plan was essentially a carbon copy of 2016 federal guidelines and recommendations. Those guidelines – referred to as Control Techniques Guidelines or CTGs – represent the national floor and would exclude a significant number of air pollution sources in Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry. However, shortly after DEP put forward its proposal, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his intent to seek public comment on withdrawing the CTGs in their entirety. With the Trump administration continuing to roll back pollution standards, Governor Wolf cannot rely on federal rules to protect our air, health, or climate. He must ensure that Pennsylvania takes full responsibility for its own public health and clean air protections.
Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the country. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leaks at almost every stage of the natural gas supply chain. Methane carries with it a range of other harmful pollutants, which pose an unnecessary health risk to residents who live near gas operations, as well as downwind residents across the state. In 2015, the most recent year with available records, the natural gas industry’s own self-reported data showed the industry emitted over 112,000 tons of methane into Pennsylvania’s air – an increase from 2014. That is equivalent to emitting over 9.6 million tons of CO2 over a 20-year timeline. It also equals the annual greenhouse gas emissions from over 540,000 passenger vehicles. Meanwhile, top-down studies that actually measure the methane content in the air show that emissions are even higher. Controlling methane pollution is a straightforward, cost-effective way to cut harmful pollution, reduce greenhouse gases, and create jobs in the methane mitigation industry.
Governor Wolf promised to control methane emissions from oil and gas activities during his 2014 campaign. Once in office, in January 2016, the governor announced a multi-step plan designed to fulfill his campaign promise, which included a commitment to develop a regulation on existing sources. To this day, Pennsylvania still does not have any standards that target methane emissions directly from the oil and gas industry.
Governor Wolf has a real opportunity to be the leader Pennsylvania needs right now. He can act to fulfill his commitments and ensure that Pennsylvania has strong, sensible, and effective policies. Pennsylvania’s rules must be broader in scope and more stringent than the requirements found in the federal guidelines (CTGs), which are likely to disappear. We cannot leave the health and safety of our communities and environment in the hands of the Trump administration. We need Governor Wolf to get serious about protecting Pennsylvania’s air quality by adopting a rule that cuts methane and harmful air pollution from existing oil and gas operations in the Commonwealth.
Exactly 17 days passed since Emily Fredricks was struck and killed by a private garbage truck while riding in the bike lane along Spruce Street before another cyclist was again struck by a turning truck while riding in a bike lane. This time the crash occurred near 13th and Pine Streets, just a couple blocks from where Fredricks was killed, and is once again igniting the call for more protected bike lanes throughout Philadelphia.
This morning, over 100 people gathered today to again form a human barrier between traffic and the bike lane along 13th Street, and show support for Becca Refford, 24, who was commuting to work when she was hit. Refford waved and smiled at the people who made the human bike lane from her hospital bed via Facetime.
Another serious crash so soon after the death of Emily Fredericks should make clear that paint-buffered bike lanes are not good enough protection on the most used, high traffic streets in Philadelphia.
Last week, the City took a small step by committing to a short section of protected bike lanes on South Street and 27th Street near the South Street Bridge. Unfortunately this is a compromise from the original plan to include a protected bike lane along Lombard Street as well.
Spruce Street, Pine Street, Lombard, and 13th Street are some of the most highly traveled bike lanes in Philadelphia. It is important that these roads be upgraded from lines of paint to physical barriers, the past three weeks have clearly demonstrated the need. Call Councilmen Kenyatta Johnson and Mark Squilla to thank them for the small addition to the City’s protected bike lane network, and demand that they take further steps to rapidly install protected bike lanes on all of center city’s bike lanes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 14, 2017
Justin Wasser, Clean Air Council: 814-242-3156
Impacted Residents, Health Experts and Environmental Advocates Urge Gov. Wolf to Advance Methane Pollution Standards for the Natural Gas Sector
Harrisburg, PA (December 14, 2017)- The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) presented today the final draft of permits to control methane pollution from new and modified natural gas operations to the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee (AQTAC). Residents affected by natural gas operations, as well as environmental and public health advocacy groups from across the Commonwealth, spoke at a press conference and at the AQTAC meeting during the public comment period. The comments were a continuation of advocacy that has spanned three years urging Governor Wolf to fulfill his campaign promises on methane controls. Wolf first promised to cut methane pollution from all new and existing gas operations on the campaign trail in 2014. He announced his methane reduction strategy in January 2016.
Environmental and public health advocacy groups and impacted residents were pleased to finally see progress made on the methane reduction plan at the meeting, but say that the Wolf administration must quickly finalize general permits and require companies to comply with them. Groups raised concerns about the administration’s proposed concepts for weaker rules covering existing source of methane pollution — a major departure from what the governor promised to do.
“While the progress being made on methane standards covering new natural gas sources is encouraging, the Wolf administration must move quickly to regulate existing sources in a similar way,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “What DEP is proposing to implement on existing sources is the bare minimum required by law. Governor Wolf must go well beyond the bare minimum in protecting the health of Pennsylvania citizens. We elected this governor based on his promises to be a leader in addressing methane pollution and climate change. Pennsylvanians deserve that leadership.”
Methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, is accompanied by air pollutants harmful to human health when it leaks from natural gas operations. Emissions in Pennsylvania continue to rise year after year.
The standards for new and modified sources will be implemented through two general permits, which allow for a streamlined approval process if industry operators agree to adhere to the permit conditions. One permit, GP-5A, covers unconventional gas wells and pigging operations and the other, GP-5, covers processing plants and compressor stations, including those on large transmission pipelines.
“Comprehensive methane rules for existing sources of pollution must be broader in scope and more stringent than the requirements found in EPA guidelines,” said Robert Routh, staff attorney for Clean Air Council. “These guidelines represent the national floor. Governor Wolf and DEP need to lead here and aim much higher for the sake of all Pennsylvanians.”
“The citizens of the commonwealth are suffering needlessly when we have the tools and technology available to greatly limit methane pollution and help clean our air,” said Dr. Robert Little, a family physician and president of the Harrisburg/Hershey chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “It bears emphasizing that we need to clear our air of both toxic hydrocarbons and emissions of methane – reducing one kind of pollution without the other gets us nowhere.”
“Until these new source rules are applied to existing sources, people in my community and others dealing with methane pollution right now are still looking at an unfulfilled promise by Governor Wolf,” said Lois Bower-Bjornson, an impacted resident of Washington County, PA. “I am urging Governor Wolf to be that leader who campaigned on a promise of holding the natural gas industry accountable to the people of Pennsylvania and move forward on rules for existing sources of methane pollution and VOCs immediately.”
“Today, my children and 3,200 of their classmates are attending school next to a gas well pad roughly half a mile away exposing them to a known health and safety risk from oil and gas air pollution including emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds,” said Patrice Tomcik, a mother of two sons from Butler County and a Field Consultant with Moms Clean Air Force, a 1 million member strong organization. “Let’s be clear: This problem will not be resolved unless and until DEP addresses these toxic pollutants like benzene, as well as methane emissions.”
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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 10, 2017) – Clean Air Council was in Washington D.C. today to continue arguing against Trump Administration efforts to roll back public health and climate protections just one week after winning a major legal victory with other environmental organizations against Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt.
“Administrator Pruitt is insistent on suspending these protections despite admitting that a two-year delay would have a disproportionate impact on children’s health,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “Delaying these important rules would jeopardize the health of Pennsylvanians living near 836 wells now covered by the rules as a result of the court’s decision last week allowing the rule to be implemented. Oil and gas pollution contributes to over 30,000 asthma attacks each year in Pennsylvania and some of the chemicals released with methane (benzene, for example), are known human carcinogens.”
On Monday, July 3rd, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit reinstated oil and gas methane pollution standards that had been suspended before implementation at the beginning of June. In a 2-1 decision in Clean Air Council, et al. v. Scott Pruitt, the Court found that Pruitt had no authority to stay the rules. Oil and gas operators must now comply with the standard, including the essential methane leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements.
“We won in the courts on the 90-day delay of the rules, but we now need to continue to defend public health and air quality as EPA recklessly attempts to institute a longer and more harmful two-year suspension of these same protections,” said Minott.
However, today, the EPA held a public hearing on Pruitt’s second attempt to stop these protections- a proposed two-year stay of these very same rules. Nearly 20 impacted community members and faith leaders from Pennsylvania testified during the hearing. They were joined by impacted people from around the country who traveled to Washington with the same message: public health for all must be prioritized over profit for a few.
“We are a family living in the epicenter of Marcellus Shale drilling,” said Jane Worthington, a mother of two from Mount Pleasant, PA that testified at Monday’s hearing. “We are not living the ‘dream,’ but are living in fear as we watch our friends and neighbors develop cancer. Our benzene-exposed daughter has to carry a personal air monitor that goes off while she is at school because it is surrounded by gas sites. There are 22 wells within 1/2 mile of our school. Six of these wells are being fracked as we speak and only 0.7 miles away from the school. We are extremely worried about being exposed to harmful pollution from the gas industry. “
The oil and gas industry is the leading industrial source of methane pollution, a greenhouse gas that is over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a 20-year timescale. Recently released data that was self-reported by the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania showed methane emissions were up 28% between 2014 and 2015 while production only rose 12%.
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 advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit www.cleanair.org.
Contact: Katie Edwards, Clean Air Council
email@example.com, 215-567-4004 x102
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.