PennFuture Blog

Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues

Pennsylvania vs. the Future

In other parts of our nation, it is the spring of 2021. We have a president who understands that climate change is a crisis, who is making the first movements in a long time towards incorporating environmental justice issues into decision-making, and who is bringing a “whole of government approach” to environmental problems.

In addition to President Biden’s early executive orders on climate change and other environmental issues, which we previously covered in this blog, the administration has advanced concrete policy proposals that include climate goals at their core.

The American Jobs Plan provides funding for infrastructure, clean energy, innovation, manufacturing and workplace support, and the caregiving economy. By incorporating support for the renewable electric grid into a key economic plan, the President is trying to launch a more sustainable American economy while simultaneously combating climate change. Additionally, last week, the President announced a commitment to 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030. This is not just a goal - it is the United States’ “nationally determined contribution” or “NDC,” which is a formal submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.   

While the United States’ goal is certainly not easy or automatic, the administration recognizes that an ambitious goal is necessary and is explicitly connecting policies and plans for job creation and economic development to responding to the climate crisis.

But in the Pennsylvania legislature, things are different. Our legislature seems determined to resist any attempts to move forward and remains firmly stuck in the past.  

In the past few weeks, both the State House and the State Senate have released a flurry of proposed legislation designed to push Pennsylvania back into the past. Some of these are explicitly designed to prevent action on climate change, and others are less explicit but still clearly motivated by a desire to frustrate problem-solving.  

An example of an explicitly anti-environment bill is Senate Bill 119 (Pittman - R, Indiana County), which would take away DEP’s statutory authority to adopt regulations to reduce carbon pollution from any source, including power plants consistent with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This bill was vetoed last September by Governor Wolf.  DEP has been working round the clock for months on its proposed RGGI regulations, including listening to thousands of comments from industry, advocacy groups, and ordinary Pennsylvanians. 

There is no purpose to this bill other than to waste state resources and attempt to frustrate a meaningful attempt to combat the climate change that threatens our future.

Then there is House Bill 939, which, among other things, would create a process for "sunsetting" existing regulations by capping the number of regulations and requiring the repeal of two existing regulations for every new regulation promulgated. If this sounds familiar, it is because the former presidential administration attempted to do this on a federal level. Looking for models in the abject failures of the last administration is not the way to move into the future.  

Fortunately, the legislature is not the entirety of the government in the Commonwealth. Governor Wolf issued an executive order committing the state to purchase at least 40% of its electricity from new solar arrays built here. Municipalities like the City of Philadelphia are taking climate change seriously and committing to ambitious carbon reduction goals to try to get there. It’s just the legislature that is stuck.

We deserve better from our elected state representatives. They need to stop standing in the way of our future. 

For more information and to learn more about what you can do to tell your legislators to vote no on these antiquated pieces of legislation, visit

Get the Latest onOur PennFuture

Sign up for email updates on the latest news, events, and opportunities to make a difference.

Sign Up