(HARRISBURG- PA) More than 30 advocacy organizations from across Pennsylvania stood together in the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday morning to publicly release a new document that represents our shared values and priorities ahead of elections this fall for a new governor and state Legislature.
Entitled, “A Shared Vision for Pennsylvania’s Environment and Communities,” this bold 30-page document is designed to put Pennsylvania at the forefront of action on climate change and environmental justice to protect our families, create jobs and ensure that every Pennsylvania community benefits.
“Environmental protection is the key to creating jobs, strengthening our economy and promoting equity at a time when families and local businesses are struggling to recover from the pandemic and facing high energy prices,” said Molly Parzen, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. “Our Shared Vision broadens the tent of environmental advocacy to show how protecting our open space, improving our air and water quality and building a green energy economy will benefit every Pennsylvanian, from the biggest city to the most rural township.”
The Shared Vision, released as a guide for candidates as elections for governor and the state legislature draw closer, includes recommendations on issues ranging from clean water, clean energy, labor, open space, land use, democracy, and environmental education.
At the same time, it brings together organizations representing groups that have been traditionally excluded from the table, explaining how environmental protection can benefit communities of color, urban and rural neighborhoods and workers.
“Centering environmental justice shows that no matter where you live or what you look like, clean water and a healthy environment should be the minimum goal our government provides,” said Veronica Coptis, Executive Director, Center for Coalfield Justice. “No matter who is our next governor of Pennsylvania, there are clear steps they can take in this agenda to put the health of Pennsylvanians before CEO and shareholder profits.”
The Shared Vision builds off successes in the budget agreement signed by Governor Wolf, including nearly $700 million for conservation investments and $125 million for an innovative Whole Home Repairs Program that will curb emissions while lowering energy costs for low-income Pennsylvania families.
It lays out a range of policy proposals, from building climate-resilient infrastructure to managing stormwater runoff, that will create jobs and deliver tangible benefits for Pennsylvania families.
“PennFuture was honored to work with so many great partners to create A Shared Vision for Pennsylvania’s Environment and Communities, a document which highlights the most important environmental issues and policy solutions facing the Commonwealth," said Michael Mehrazar, Field Manager for PennFuture. "Crucially, this Shared Vision was intentionally designed to elevate the voices of environmental justice and frontline communities, ensuring that those issues were represented on every page. We believe that this has made the Shared Vision a powerful, holistic statement that should be strongly considered by every candidate running for public office this midterm election.”
The Shared Vision addresses Pennsylvania’s long history of environmental racism and injustice, in which communities of color and working families have disproportionately borne the brunt of pollution and industrialization, by calling for transformative investments in replacing dangerous lead water pipes, limiting the cumulative impacts of air pollution on environmental justice communities and ensuring the equitable electrification of public transit, school buses and other vehicles.
"Pennsylvania has no shortage of environmental threats that impact the lives of residents, especially those in low income and communities of color. Addressing these issues requires not just a commitment from our elected officials but a blueprint for how we'll actually bring about change. The Shared Vision is a comprehensive plan that our elected officials need to embrace in order to effectively shape Pennsylvania's environmental future," said Steve Hvozdovich, Pennsylvania Campaigns Director, Clean Water Action.
The document also calls on Pennsylvania leaders to invest the proceeds of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state initiative to tackle climate change while building a green power sector, in ways that lower energy costs for low-income families and create jobs in underserved communities.
“The League of Women Voters has declared a climate emergency. As beneficiaries and trustees of our Commonwealth, it is imperative that we work together to address the real and present dangers to our natural world at the local, state and national levels. We only have one planet and we need to use this time to secure a healthy environment for future generations. We must act now,” said Kathy Cook, Environmental Policy Director, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.
To combat false narratives that we must choose between jobs and the environment, the Shared Vision also demonstrates how environmental protection can be leveraged to create family-sustaining union jobs as Pennsylvanians are put to work installing green stormwater infrastructure to mitigate flooding, weatherizing homes and businesses to reduce energy costs and installing new solar panels and wind turbines to power our economy with renewable energy.
“Our Shared Vision advances the fight for justice in all forms- housing, economic, environmental, racial and social,” said Diana Robinson, Civic Engagement Director with Make the Road Pennsylvania. “By engaging and educating policymakers about the role they can play to create a better Pennsylvania for their constituents, we hope to create a healthier, more equitable and prosperous Commonwealth.”
Policies supporting environmental protection enjoy broad, bipartisan consensus. But the voices of Pennsylvania voters are too often drowned out by corporate special interests.
“Our environment, our communities, and our health are too often secondary when it comes to politics in Pennsylvania. Our goal in developing this document was to change that dynamic. Advocacy organizations from across the state came together to identify the most pressing issues impacting our environment and our communities and to provide clear policy solutions. We hope that candidates for governor and for the state legislature will use this document as a guide in developing their platforms, and after they’re elected, that they will prioritize making these policy solutions a reality,” said Jennifer Quinn, Legislative and Political Director, Pennsylvania Sierra Club.
The Shared Vision unites our diverse and powerful movement to propose reforms that would preserve our democracy, clean up Harrisburg and put the people back in charge by expanding access to voting, reforming the legislative process and protecting our state’s independent judiciary from partisan attacks.
Bobby Hughes, Executive Director Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR), said:
“EPCAMR is looking forward to working with our partners in our environmental justice coalfield communities to propose abandoned mine land reclamation and mine water pollution cleanup projects in our watersheds with any and all new and incumbent leadership in Pennsylvania. We have such a tremendous opportunity in front of us for the next nearly 13 years to leverage federal infrastructure, abandoned mine land reclamation, economic development, and alternative energy funding from various programs, in addition to our state-funded programs to reclaim a large number of health and safety problem areas on the landscape, turn our focus on greener alternative energy projects that can create job and workforce development opportunities for our coalfield communities, and restore miles of streams previously impaired by abandoned mine drainage (AMD) for recreational benefits, potential industrial reuse of the mine water and recovery of rare earth elements, and long-term treatment of the mine water through the construction of active water treatment system infrastructure projects that will also create jobs."
Suzanne Biemiller, Executive Director of Audubon Mid-Atlantic, said:
“The 2022 Shared Vision for Pennsylvania’s Environment and Communities provides a clear roadmap to a sustainable and resilient Pennsylvania, protecting our most precious resources – our land, air, water and people. Audubon Mid-Atlantic is proud to work with all the partners involved to build consensus around issues that matter most to Pennsylvanians and to provide a voice for birds, and the millions of Pennsylvanians who love birds and the places they need to survive. Pennsylvanians know the places birds need to survive are the very same places that keep humans healthy and our economies strong and adaptable. We look forward to working with lawmakers and communities across the state to implement this common agenda for the benefit of Pennsylvania’s environment and all people and birds that depend on it.”
PennFuture is Pennsylvania’s leading environmental advocacy organization with offices in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Erie and East Stroudsburg. We are protecting our air, water and land, and empowering citizens to build sustainable communities for future generations.
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