June 20, 2024 Leigh Martinez

Pennfuture Unveils Policy Recommendations for the Pennsylvania Department Of Community And Economic Development aiming to redirect Pennsylvania's financial resources from fossil fuels towards decarbonization and economic diversification

The report recommends reforming the DCED and Team PA to effectively support energy and EJ communities, labor, tackle the climate crisis, and lead the clean industrial revolution.

Thursday, June 20, 2024, Harrisburg, PA — Today, PennFuture releases Economic Policy is Environmental Policy: Prioritizing Environmental Progress in Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development. The report offers policy recommendations for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and how to reshape the Commonwealth’s strategic collaborations with public and private partners. 

The 36-page report demonstrates the DCED's vital role in successfully transitioning the state's economy away from destabilizing fossil fuels and ushering in a new era of clean, innovative industry while ensuring vulnerable communities and workers are not left behind. 

“PennFuture focused on the DCED because economic development policy has significant environmental impacts,” said the author of the report, PennFuture’s Policy Manager for Sustainable Economics Donna Kohut. “ Economic development policy sets the agenda for what will be built in the Commonwealth. Considering the DCED's policies are designed to last for decades, this agency has great influence over the long-term health of our communities and our environment." 

Established in 1996, the DCED's mission is to 'cultivate a resilient economy' that works for all Pennsylvanians. The agency has administered roughly 200 programs from technology grants to promoting development on brownfield sites. However, the DCED played a significant role in supporting the build of under-performing, environmentally disastrous projects like the Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver County. 

PennFuture's policy recommendations for the DCED aim to redirect Pennsylvania's financial resources from fossil fuels towards decarbonization and diversification of the economy. This shift is intended to support energy communities, EJ communities, and labor by focusing on manufacturing, developing, and deploying clean energy and energy efficiency. 

The proposed recommendations include specific steps such as establishing climate accountability standards for new projects, utilizing the expertise of the Office of Environmental Justice to better serve under-resourced and disproportionately impacted communities, and creating guidelines to support clean tech manufacturing and the deployment of renewables.

“Following the launch of Governor Josh Shapiro’s ‘PA Gets It Done’ economic development strategy, now is the time to reform the DCED,” said Kohut. “If the Governor wants Pennsylvania to successfully compete against states like Ohio, he should consider how Ohio and other fossil fuel powerhouses like Texas and Wyoming are proactively transforming their economies to adapt to market forces. This involves shifting to clean tech manufacturing and rapidly deploying renewable energy sources."

The report also recommends reforming the Team PA Foundation, a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) entity co-chaired by the governor and a private sector leader. This agency does not have to adhere to public transparency and accountability standards, but it has significant power to facilitate collaboration across different sectors and attract public and private investments to boost the state's economy. 

Economic development policy sets the agenda for what will be built in the Commonwealth. If Pennsylvania continues to rely on the fossil fuel industries that dominated the last two centuries, our workers and our communities will be left behind. In the face of national economic and technological changes, stabilizing and modernizing Pennsylvania's economy must be paramount. Economic development policy is environmental policy, and it’s vital that Pennsylvania decision-makers recognize this fact.