The threats to Pennsylvania’s environment have never been more urgent. We have the third worst air quality in the country, and as a result, in some Pennsylvania cities, one in three children suffers from asthma. Pennsylvania drinking water ranks as one the nation's riskiest for lead-contamination, and 19,000 miles of our streams and rivers are unsafe for drinking, recreation, aquatic life, or agricultural use. The race to exploit the abundance of natural gas beneath the surface has turned Pennsylvania into one of the largest producers of methane, a major health and climate hazard, and has produced large quantities of wastewater and solid waste, which has exposed Pennsylvanians to harmful substances that cause a variety of serious illnesses.
In response, a coalition of 26 environmental organizations across the state, led by PennFuture, developed the Pennsylvania Common Conservation Agenda
, a comprehensive series of fiscally responsible solutions to the problems above. Another advantage of the agenda: the recommended solutions can be enacted by the incoming governor using the executive authority granted in the state constitution. With a pivotal gubernatorial election taking place on November 6, this would seem like an opportune time to distribute the agenda. But so far, we've heard little about either candidate’s environmental and conservation agendas.
Why are the candidates focusing so little attention on the environment? After all, aren’t more and more people convinced that the environmental problems facing Pennsylvania must be addressed before it’s too late? The answer to the latter question is a resounding “yes.” The March 2018 Franklin and Marshall College Poll
survey of 423 Pennsylvania registered voters found that 62% think climate change is causing problems now, and 67% think the state should do more to address the problems associated with climate change, including 47% who say the state should definitely do more. What’s more, 55% of the respondents believe the potential environmental risks of natural gas drilling outweigh the potential economic benefits, a turnaround of the findings in a Franklin & Marshall survey four years earlier.
Yet despite these findings, only 2% of the participants in the March 2018 poll believe that the environment is the most important problem facing the state, a sentiment that is essentially the same as in other recent Franklin & Marshal polls. The top five concerns expressed by Pennsylvania voters in March were:
- Government & politicians 16%
- Taxes 15%
- Unemployment & personal finances 12%
- Crime, drugs, violence, and guns 10%
- Education/schools 9%
These five problems have been at the top of the list dating back to early 2017, while the environment has ranked no higher than seventh during this time period and has not been mentioned by more than 3% of Franklin & Marshall poll participants. So, although Pennsylvania voters are concerned about the environment and want to see more action taken, they consider other issues even more important. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the issues overshadowing the environment are the ones being discussed on the campaign trail. I can personally attest to that having attended a Scott Wagner town hall last week.
To overcome this, the PA Common Conservation Agenda coalition created the Green in ’18 campaign.
To advance the agenda, it is vital that both gubernatorial candidates start discussing environmental issues on the campaign trail and presenting their plans for restoring the health of the state’s environment and safeguarding it for future generations. The only way this will happen is if the Green in ’18 campaign can elevate the importance of the environment in voters’ minds, and motivate them to get out on the campaign trail and ask the candidates questions about their positions on and plans for the environment.
To get involved in the Green in ’18 campaign, click here.
And there is one other step you can take right now to support the agenda and the campaign. You can tell us – and we’ll tell the candidates – where the environment ranks on your list of election priorities. We are conducting a brief poll on our Facebook page
asking people to let us know which issues they want the gubernatorial candidates to talk about on the campaign trail. It should take no more than 2 to 3 minutes to complete the survey, and your responses are confidential. Click here to take the survey,
and check back on Facebook for updates on the results. In addition, please share the survey link with other Pennsylvanians.