Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
On Saturday, July 14, PennFuture provided a presentation on "Climate, Stewardship, and Environmental Justice" at the Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg, Pa. as dozens of activists came out to discuss and learn more about a variety of environmental issues hindering our Commonwealth.
PennFuture was invited to present and participate in the event by Franklin County Coalition for Progress (FCCP), a local advocacy group advancing social justice and equality for all residents in Franklin County. Topics ranged from federal and state policy, Pennsylvania’s standing in the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), and environmental justice.
I had the honor of joining my colleagues, Ezra Thrush, Director of Policy, and Roman Acri, Green in 18’ south-central Pennsylvania campaign organizer, on a variety of conversations with the attendees.
Ezra began the event by highlighting several essential pieces of work he has been a part of. It has been a busy legislative season for our Director of Policy, and the impact of it has been felt across the board by those in the conservation effort and beyond. Highlighting the positive and negative aspects of the House and Senate Farm Bills, as well as increased funding for our environmental agencies, he informed the coalition that much has been accomplished – yet much more work still needs to be done.
My work primarily revolves around the Susquehanna and Potomac Rivers, specifically the cleanup and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. On April 10, Pennsylvania’s environmental advocates and state agencies conducted a meeting where they developed their toolbox for four pilot counties that will be heading up the initial strategy of reducing pollution and runoff, and developing best management practices (BMP’s) to help Pennsylvania reach its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals.
With Pennsylvania being so far behind in its pollution reduction goals, I highlighted some of the most important areas of work that are taking place at the state and county levels. Being in Franklin County, which is one of the four pilot counties of the WIP pilot program, Chambersburg plays a critical role in the progress of our pollution reduction goals. With their state-of-the art MS4 program, this small town is making big progress and setting a great example for the south central part of the state.
Roman then closed out the session talking about Environmental Justice in the state. According to the PA Department of Environmental Protection, nearly one-third of Pennsylvania’s population lives in an Environmental Justice area. These areas are now defined as a census block group with a 30 percent or greater minority population, or a 20 percent or greater population at or below the poverty level. “These are really important issues that are severely harming entire communities – solely because of where they live,” Roman said. “We have a responsibility not only as advocates, but as human beings, to look out for each other.”
PennFuture would like to thank the Franklin County Coalition for Progress for allowing us to speak at their meeting. Any time environmental advocates are able to come together, enjoy some coffee, and discuss environmental protections is a good day.
FCCP is leading the way to a renewal of the promise of America; that Franklin County becomes a community of welcome, acceptance, fairness, and opportunity for all people. They hold monthly seminars on the second Saturday of every month from 10am-12pm at the Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg. The next few months will continue the focus of watershed health, specifically examining the Borough of Chambersburg storm water sewer systems. To learn more about FCCP, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, to stay up to date with all of their news.