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  • Mark Szybist, Natural Resources Defense Council

New Pennsylvania Coalition: It's Time for Clean Energy's Star Turn

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy reiterated yesterday that the agency's Clean Power Plan (CPP), the first nationwide standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants, will be finalized this summer. For a growing number of Pennsylvanians, this new day for clean energy and less carbon pollution in the Commonwealth can't come soon enough.

That's why, today, NRDC and eleven other environmental organizations announced a new coalition effort (with a website,, and a video) to give voice to the majority of Pennsylvanians who want more clean energy in the Commonwealth - and specifically want the administration of Governor Tom Wolf to adopt a strong state plan to implement the CPP and reduce global warming. (Under the final CPP, states will be empowered to develop and submit their own flexible state plans that are tailored to a state's unique electric system dynamics; states that choose not to submit plans will then be subject to an EPA federal backstop plan).

Although the Pennsylvania General Assembly may not have gotten the memo yet - last week, it passed a budget bill (House Bill 1192) containing not a single cent of the clean energy funding that Governor Wolf proposed earlier this year - clean energy is extremely popular in the Commonwealth. And not just because it will help with CPP compliance.

A recent NRDC poll found that for health, economic, and environmental reasons, 97 percent of Pennsylvanians support efforts to increase the energy efficiency of homes and buildings, 91 percent support solar energy, and 85 percent support wind energy. Moreover, 82 percent of Pennsylvanians specifically support the adoption of a strong CPP state plan to increase the use of clean energy and reduce carbon pollution, with just 20 percent wishing to maintain the dirty-energy status quo.

Given the demonstrated benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, this overwhelming support is hardly surprising. Pennsylvania's clean energy industry already employs 57,000 people, a number likely to grow rapidly in coming years; the health benefits of the cleaner air that results from cleaner energy production have been well-documented; and expanding energy efficiency and renewables under the CPP will ultimately reduce electricity bills and help low-income Pennsylvanians.

But as finalization of the CPP approaches, the fossil fuel industry is ramping up its pressure on politicians to reject clean energy - and the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania General Assembly seems to be listening. That budget bill that the legislature passed last week? Not only did it fail to include any funding for the Governor's clean energy programs, it also failed to include a long-overdue severance tax on the production of gas in the Commonwealth.

To make clear Pennsylvanians' support for clean energy and strong state action under the CPP, NRDC and eleven other organizations representing clean energy, business, faith, civil rights and community leaders from across the state are launching the "Clean Power PA" campaign. Today's launch features a 30-second video demonstrating the diversity of Pennsylvanians who support setting carbon pollution limits on existing power plants to fight climate change, and we have put up a petition on our website asking Governor Wolf to "support a strong plan to reduce carbon pollution in Pennsylvania that increases renewable energy and energy efficiency, protects the health of Pennsylvania's citizens, and brings clean energy jobs to our state."

Why all this matters is summed up by campaign members from around the state who support the CPP. Maurice Peaker, a solar installer in Philadelphia, stresses that the CPP means more jobs for Pennsylvanians, as "renewables are one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy." Nurse Nicole LaMaina, observes that fossil fuel pollution is "not just an environmental issue, but a health issue as well." The CPP means that all Pennsylvanians, "particularly the children and the elderly, will breathe a little easier," she says. Christine Dolle, a mother of 4-year-old twins Lucy and Leo, says that "one day my kids will ask what we did to ensure a clean future for them and their kids," and that she wants to tell them "we made sure Pennsylvania created a strong Clean Power Plan to reduce the primary cause of climate change--air pollution."

The bottom line is that a broad majority and wide variety of Pennsylvanians strongly support fighting climate change, reducing air pollution and reaping the economic and health benefits offered by clean energy. The strong levels of clean energy funding that Governor Wolf proposed earlier this year - including but not limited to $50 million for the Pennsylvania Sunshine Program, $20 million in wind power incentives, and $50 million for energy efficiency - were in step with this prevailing public sentiment, and we strongly support Governor Wolf's veto of the bad budget bill last week. The budget negotiations now taking place present an historic opportunity for Pennsylvania to invest in a clean energy future, and make an early start on the strong CPP state action that, as the "Clean Power PA" campaign shows, Pennsylvanians want overwhelmingly. It's time for clean energy's star turn.

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