The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

January 25, 2014

Greg Vitali | Corbett's climate plan woefully inadequate

JOHNSTOWN — Pennsylvania’s new Climate Change Action Plan was recently released by the state Department of Environmental Protection. It is woefully inadequate because it fails to set greenhouse gas reduction goals, fails to provide clear, quantifiable recommendations to meet those goals and fails to sufficiently incentivize renewable energy.

Regrettably, this plan is consistent with Gov. Tom Corbett’s total lack of leadership on climate change.

Climate change is the most important environmental problem facing this planet. Richard Alley, a professor of climatology at Penn State University, recently testified that greenhouse gasses have caused temperatures across the globe to rise by 1 degree.

He said if temperatures continue to rise, it will be more difficult to grow crops, there will be more floods and droughts, stronger storms and sea levels will continue to rise.

Pennsylvania produces 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. It has a responsibility to develop a climate change action plan to address its share of this problem.

The very essence of a climate change action plan is the setting of target greenhouse gas reduction goals and a clearly defined strategy to meet those goals. It’s hard to believe the Corbett administration would submit a plan without these basic elements.

The first plan, submitted by the Rendell administration in 2009, called for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Act 70 of 2008 requires DEP to submit a plan every three years.

Not surprisingly, Corbett’s plan emphasizes the expansion of natural gas use and pays insufficient attention to renewable energy. In fact, natural gas is mentioned 184 times in this plan. Renewable energy is mentioned just nine times and alternative energy is mentioned 14 times.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel and still produces a significant amount of greenhouse gas. We cannot achieve the carbon dioxide reduction goals needed to stabilize earth’s climate without greatly expanding our use of renewable energy like wind and solar.

Pennsylvania’s utility sector relies heavily on fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas to produce electricity, and as a result, contributes 38 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania.

The best way to increase renewable energy production in the utility sector is to expand Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio standard. Yet the plan does not recommend this.

Pennsylvania’s AEPS now requires electric companies to purchase 8 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020 – far short of neighboring states. New Jersey’s AEPS, for example, calls for 17.88 percent of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2021.

In February, I introduced H.B. 100, which would amend the commonwealth’s AEPS to require Pennsylvania electric companies to obtain 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2023.

Regrettably, this bill has not advanced.

For Pennsylvania to meet its climate change responsibilities, its governor must provide leadership. As this climate action plan reflects, leadership is sorely lacking in the Corbett administration.

 

Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) is Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

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