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PennFuture's Climate for Change :: Climate news from around the state, country and world

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

We rocked it in Pittsburgh last week!

The EPA came to Pittsburgh on July 31 and August 1, and it was a really big deal.

The agency has proposed a standard for limiting carbon pollution from power plants -- the source of 40 percent of such pollution in this country.
PennFuture's CEO Cindy Dunn speaks at Clean
Power Plan press conference and rally

PennFuture was honored to be asked to take the lead in organizing support for the hearing in Pittsburgh. Along with our environmental partners, including Sierra Club, we helped mobilize hundreds of citizens from several states who came to town to express their own reasons for supporting the EPA's action to cut carbon pollution from the filthiest old coal-burning plants across the country -- especially here in Pennsylvania.

PennFuture -- with the support of our members and friends -- turned out in a big way to weigh in with the EPA. Since we've blogged before about why the science compels us to act, this time around I'll share some of the personal observations of our staff.
  • Our own CEO and president (and avid outdoorsperson) Cindy Dunn spoke at the press conference on July 31 about the need to act. Upon her return to Harrisburg, she shared this reflection: "It was gratifying to see so many partners come together for an urgent and necessary cause. It renews my faith that people of good will can give of their time and pull together for the critical issue of climate change."
  • Jennifer Quinn, our central Pennsylvania outreach coordinator, organized a bus of activists who made the round-trip to Pittsburgh. Jen says, "I was amazed and heartened to see the large number of people who woke up very early, traveled great distances and, in many cases, gave up a vacation day to go to Pittsburgh and tell the EPA why the proposed carbon pollution limits are important to them and their families."
  • Rob Altenburg, PennFuture's senior energy analyst, was on Jen's bus that day. Rob delivered our rather technical testimony to the EPA, and listened to other testifiers while he was in town. Rob writes, "While there were many good technical points raised in the testimony I heard, I was most impressed by the personal stories of how air pollution impacts people. One speaker I heard was a mother (and grandmother) was so concerned with her family's health that she skipped the Aretha Franklin concert at the Ohio State Fair so she could drive in from Ohio to testify." 
  • Valessa Souter-Kline, our southwest Pennsylvania outreach coordinator, was heavily involved in the hearings. Valessa observed that "one of the most striking aspects of the hearing was the breadth of testimony. Listening to so many people speak in support of this proposal brought new depth to the issues at stake and made it clear that there is public demand for action on climate change -- for human health, the economy and to protect the environment." 
If you'll indulge me, I'll share my own thoughts on why it was important for PennFuture to work so hard to make this hearing a success: now is the time to act.  It was in 1979 (when I was 24; I'll spare you the math: I'm 59 now) that I had my first interaction with someone who was already claiming that climate change was hogwash. I've been working to engage and educate people about the reality of climate change ever since. We weren't sure of the science in 1979, but even then, it seemed pretty clear we were headed for trouble.

What if the country had taken climate change seriously 35 years ago? We likely would have already transitioned to a clean energy economy, with fossil fuels and all their attendant woes in our distant past. Of course it's not too late to act, but if we done so even a decade ago, we would have avoided unnecessary illnesses and premature deaths. Furthermore, extensive loss of property due to extreme weather events and damage to wildlife and the oceans could have been prevented. Let's not keep hurting ourselves. 

I'm tired of waiting, which is why we applaud EPA and President Obama's Clean Power Plan.  That's why I devoted myself to getting so many people show up in Pittsburgh to tell the EPA it's time to #ActOnClimate. And they're listening!

P.S. If you haven't had the chance to tell the EPA that you support the rule, you can do so right now by clicking here. (EPA is accepting comments till October 16. But why wait?

Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy director and is based in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

June brought more than the summer solstice this year

It's not surprising, given the overwhelming evidence of a changing climate, but Think Progress's Joe Romm reports more warming news from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). So, if you thought last month was hot, you're right: Overall, June 2014 was the hottest June since records were kept starting in 1880. Just for context on how far back we're going, James Garfield was elected president that year and Thomas Edison first patented the electric incandescent light. (Okay, and we know science has built upon that to provide even better alternatives today in CFLs and LEDs).

This June, the oceans also recorded above-average temperatures, as did parts of Greenland, which has significant impacts for the ice sheet. If you have to confront any climate change naysayers, the map included of the worldwide temperatures for the month shows a serious tale.

But now, for a roundup of some good news: Environment 360 at Yale University notes that India just doubled its tax on domestic and imported coal, with the goal of funding more clean energy projects. And some of the U.S. mainstream media is covering climate change much more in the first half of 2014.

Finally, support for EPA's proposed carbon pollution limits on coal-fired power plants is rolling in as we get ready for the Pittsburgh public hearings on the recently-proposed standard on July 31 and Aug 1. Be sure to read the upcoming posts by my colleague, Joy Bergey, for the lowdown post-hearing.

Kate Gibbons is northeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Wilkes-Barre.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

One citizen's motivation to testify at the upcoming EPA hearing on the Clean Power Plan

PennFuture has a terrific set of volunteers. Tom Mullaney, who lives in my neck of the woods (just outside of Philadelphia), has been helping us out for about six months now and he's a delight to work with. Tom is so committed to the effort to slow climate change that he's making the round trip to Pittsburgh on July 31 so that he can testify in person at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) hearing on its long-overdue proposal to limit carbon pollution from dirty power plants. Tom shared his testimony with me earlier this week, and it really touched me. He has kindly agreed to share his testimony here. Thanks, Tom!

My name is Tom Mullaney and I am a resident of Glenside, Pennsylvania. I am a high school history teacher.

I am fully supportive of the EPA's proposed standard. It should be implemented promptly and without being weakened in any way.

As a history teacher, I hope that as I approach retirement in the early 2040s, I will teach my students about a time when Americans were concerned about carbon emissions in the atmosphere. I want to explain to my students that the problem is considered history and not a crisis in their lives because, in 2014, our government took action resulting in reduced carbon in the atmosphere and increased willingness of other countries to follow this example.

I am looking forward to my lesson on how the United States got carbon emissions under control. As a history teacher, I look back as well. To understand why we are here today, we need to know the EPA has the authority, granted by a bipartisan vote of Congress, signed into law by a Republican president, and confirmed by Supreme Court decision written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, to set standards for industrial carbon pollution from power plants.

Setting reasonable carbon pollution standards for power plants will cut the primary driver of climate change. Carbon dioxide traps heat. That is a scientific fact. Since the dawn of the industrial age, we have increased carbon emissions, something that has been irrefutably measured and documented. In that time, temperatures have consistently risen, so much so that, globally, we’ve now had 351 consecutive months above the long-term average. That means a 29-year-old has never lived through a “cooler than normal” month. This fuels extreme weather such as Superstorm Sandy, which closed my school for three days in October 2012.

When southeastern Pennsylvania students miss three days of school because of inclement weather in October, the problem is not theoretical. It is real and already impacting our daily lives.

Please take action by implementing the proposed standard. I want my students in the 2040s to know about this problem because I teach it to them, not because they experience it. Thank you.

Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy director and is based in Philadelphia. You'll find her in Pittsburgh on July 31 and August 1 for the EPA hearings.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ready to #ActOnClimate? Here's what you need to know.

How many times do you really have the opportunity to be part of an historic event? Now is your chance! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding hearings in Pittsburgh on July 31 and August 1 to accept public comments on its proposed limits for CO2 from dirty, old power plants. Power plants are the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution, which exacerbates climate change. These common sense limits proposed by EPA will protect our communities and human health. This is a BIG DEAL! There will also be a huge rally on July 31 conjunction with the hearing.

Surely you want to be a part of this so we’ve made it easy for you to get involved. We’re providing a FREE bus from the Harrisburg area to Pittsburgh on July 31 for folks wishing to speak at the hearing and for those wanting to attend the rally, and we’re also providing a FREE lunch.


Pick-up site:   Target (parking lot) 
                       6416 Carlisle Pike
                      Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

Please park far from the building at the southern end of the lot.
We will be leaving Mechanicsburg at 6:30 a.m., please be on time.
We will depart Pittsburgh at 3 p.m. and should return to Harrisburg by 7 p.m.
There will be no stops, so please bring drinks and snacks. Buses are restroom-equipped.

Moorhead Federal Building
1000 Liberty Ave., Room 1310
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

July 31, 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
August 1, 9:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m.

Since the hearing is held at a U.S. government facility, you must pass through a security screening and provide a valid picture ID (e.g. driver’s license or government-issue ID).

Please bring two copies of your comments/testimony.
We can send you suggested comments in advance of the hearing and are more than happy to work with you on your comments. In the meantime, feel free to review this recent blog post with talking points.

August Wilson Center
980 Liberty Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

July 31, 11 a.m.- Noon

There will be FREE boxed lunches available after the rally.  (Who ever said there's no such thing as a free lunch?)

If you are driving to Pittsburgh, you can park at the Grant St. Transportation Center.


If you are looking for an affordable place to stay in Pittsburgh, please email me:

Jennifer Quinn is central Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Harrisburg. She tweets @QuinnJen1.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Everyone -- including you -- has a stake in EPA's proposal to limit industrial carbon pollution

We're excited. Momentum is building for a strong showing in Pittsburgh on July 31 and Aug 1.

Why? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding public hearings on those days to accept comments on its proposed standard to limit CO2 from dirty, old power plants. Finally!

I personally -- and strongly -- encourage everyone to testify: individuals, representatives of organizations, health care professionals, business leaders. Everyone.

This is because I suggest that everyone is an environmentalist (calm down, Rush, and do hear me out):
  • The adult daughter, sitting in the ER with her aging mother all night, hoping Mom will survive this latest asthma attack, exacerbated by our dirty air.
  • The grandfather, concerned about how his grandchildren will cope with a world that will be changed by ever more severe weather. 
  • The families of the 47 people killed one year ago by the explosion of the runaway oil train in Quebec.
  • The lifelong fisherman, concerned about the health of the fish in the Susquehanna River
Do you share any of these concerns? Then tell the EPA what you think.

Do you pay for any part of your own health insurance, or even the occasional doctor's bill? Then you should care about unchecked carbon pollution from power plants, since the health costs associated with this pollution ultimately falls on all our shoulders.  Tell the EPA what you think.

Are you concerned by the financial and safety threats of more superstorms like Hurricane Sandy? You got it: Tell the EPA what you think.

You don't have to be an expert to testify, simply a concerned citizen.

Click here for information to help you write your testimony.

If you can't make it to Pittsburgh, email me at bergey at pennfuture dot org and I'll read your testimony into the record. 

It matters. Because you matter. Now is the time to speak out.

Tell the EPA what you think.

Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy director and is based in Philadelphia; she tweets @joybergey. She'll be in Pittsburgh on July 31 and August 1, telling the EPA what she thinks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Talking points for testifying at upcoming EPA public hearing on climate change

You've likely heard that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing, at long last, to limit industrial carbon pollution from dirty, power plants. The agency's Clean Power Plan is great news for Pennsylvania (and the rest of the world). It can only mean cleaner air, a more stable climate, and better health for all of us in the future.

Consider yourself hereby invited to testify at the EPA hearing in Pittsburgh on Thursday, July 31, and Friday, August 1. Anyone and everyone should consider testifying. You can represent yourself, an organization, your faith community, or your family.

What would you say in your testimony? Start by introducing yourself and where you live. State the name of the organization you represent and what they do, if you're speaking on their behalf.

State that you are fully supportive of the EPA's proposed standard, and that you want it to be implemented promptly and without being weakened in any way.

Continue by offering a sentence or two about why you care about action on climate change. For example, "My cousins lost their home on the Jersey shore to Hurricane Sandy, and unchecked climate change will only bring us more and more superstorms."  Or perhaps, "My children (or grandchildren) deserve as safe and stable a future as we can possible leave them, and climate change works against that." You get the idea.

Then it would be helpful to list some facts and figures about climate change. See below for a bunch of those that you can use.

Finish up by reiterating your support for the proposed standard, and thanking EPA for the opportunity to be heard.

Keep in mind that you are only allotted five minutes. so you will want to speak to the issues that resonate with you the most. (300 to 600 words total would be great.)

Bring two copies of your testimony (typed or handwritten) to leave with the EPA. And be sure to include your name and contact info on the copies.

So, register to speak at the hearing!

Please sign up now for a speaking slot on Thursday, July 31, or Friday, August 1. EPA should respond to your request within 24 hours, assigning you a time to speak. Please email me at bergey at pennfuture dot org and let me know what time you've been assigned to speak. And if you can't get to Pittsburgh, I can arrange for someone to read your testimony.

Talking Points......Feel free to use any of these in your testimony.

  • Carbon pollution causes climate change, resulting in more frequent and increasingly violent extreme weather events, drought, sea level rise and other stressors that devastate communities, threaten public health, and destroy and degrade wildlife habitat.  
  • Globally, we’ve now had 351 consecutive months above the long-term average, meaning a 29-year-old has never lived through a “cooler than normal” month.
  • Wildfires, floods and extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall, are becoming more frequent and more severe. These changes are happening in the evolutionary blink of an eye.  This creates real costs to our economy, negatively impacts public health and puts stress on wildlife and the natural environment.
  • Pennsylvania creates more heat-trapping emissions than all but two other states -- Texas and California, each of which have much larger populations.
  • Pennsylvania creates nearly one percent of the world's total heat-trapping emissions, far disproportionate to our population. 

 The Public Health Impacts

  • From the American Lung Association: "Climate change and ozone scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient [ground level] ozone levels....Even with the steps that are in place to reduce ozone, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase ozone levels in the future in large parts of the U.S. To protect human health, the nation needs strong measures to reduce climate change and ozone." (
  • From the 2014 National Climate Assessment: "Climate change, as well as increased CO2 by itself, can contribute to increased production of plant-based allergens....Higher pollen concentrations and longer pollen seasons can increase allergic sensitizations and asthma episodes and diminish productive work and school days. Simultaneous exposure to toxic air pollutants can worsen allergic responses. Even rainfall and rising temperatures can foster indoor air quality problems, including the growth of indoor fungi and molds, with increases in respiratory and asthma-related conditions."   (
  • From the 2014 National Climate Assessment: "Extreme heat events are the leading weather-related cause of death in the U.S. Many cities, including Philadelphia, have suffered dramatic spikes in death rates during heat waves....Heat waves are also associated with increased hospital admissions for cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory disorders."   (
  •  Clean Air Task Force provides terrific information at the level of counties and power plants for every state, including Pennsylvania. Go to and click on Pennsylvania on the map.

The Economic Impacts

  • Between 1970 and 2006, U.S. GDP grew by 195 percent, even though we had Environmental Protection Agency and Clean Air Act regulations that significantly cut carbon monoxide, smog pollution, acid rain, and toxic pollutants like lead.  
  • Setting limits on the carbon pollution causing climate change will spur investment and innovation in energy efficiency and clean energy technologies. The real economic risk is inaction. From 2011-2013 alone, damages from extreme weather events have exceeded $200 billion. Imagine how much of a cleanup bill we’d be handing our children and grandchildren if we fail to act now.  
  • More than 90 million Americans take part in wildlife-related recreation, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Hunting and Fishing Survey. The outdoor recreation industry contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting nearly 6.5 million jobs in communities across the U.S. and generating $88 billion in annual state and national tax revenue.

Supporting Points

  • The EPA is using its authority, granted by a bipartisan vote of Congress, signed by a Republican president [Nixon], and confirmed by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court [The Roberts Court], to set standards for industrial carbon pollution from power plants, which threatens public health.
  • Setting reasonable carbon pollution standards for power plants will cut the primary driver of climate change, which fuels extreme weather that threatens communities and public health with increasing costs and worsening impacts.
  • Climate change deniers want you to distrust the science, and ignore the impacts and costs of climate change already being felt by communities and wildlife across the country.
  • Big polluters want to continue to dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free, instead of adopting reasonable carbon pollution safeguards that protect public health and wildlife by slowing climate change. That’s wrong.

Joy Bergey is federal policy director for PennFuture, and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @joybergey. You can meet her in Pittsburgh on July 31 or August 1 -- she wouldn't miss it for the world.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pittsburgh, Thursday, July 31: Tell the EPA we need a strong carbon standard!

Our loyal readers will already know that Pittsburgh has been chosen as one of only four cities nationally to host Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearings on the newly proposed standard to limit industrial carbon pollution from dirty old coal-fired power plants.

Thursday, July 31
9:00 a.m. — 8:00 p.m.

William S. Moorhead
Federal Building
   Room 1310
1000 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222
This hearing, to be held on Thursday, July 31, gives Pittsburghers and all Pennsylvanians (and even our neighbors in surrounding states) a chance to shine.

Sign up to speak at the hearing

Everyone is welcome to testify — whether you're an individual, on staff or a volunteer for an environmental community group, a business owner, a teenager concerned about the future, a faith leader — anyone can and should testify. No expertise required — just passion about climate change.

Please sign up now for Thursday, July 31. EPA should respond to your request within 24 hours, assigning you a time to speak. If they don't, I encourage you to follow up with them.

Please do let PennFuture know what time slot you're assigned. (Send me an email.)

Want some help composing your statement for the hearing?

Have questions about what's being proposed by the EPA? Or what types of comments would be most helpful in getting the EPA to take the strongest actions possible? Would you like some facts and figures to help you compose your remarks for the hearing?

PennFuture is here to help! Just contact me.

Want to submit testimony, but can't make it to Pittsburgh on July 31?

PennFuture has volunteers who can read your testimony on your behalf, even if you live too far away to make it to Pittsburgh. Again, just let me know.

Want to be part of the activity on July 31, even if you don't want to testify?

There will be lots going on that day in and around the hearing, and we'd love to have you with us for all or part of the day. It would be really helpful for you simply to sit in the audience for a few hours, encouraging those who are testifying. We also need volunteers to help register people or distribute signs and T-shirts. Want to help out? You know the drill by now: Email me.

Come out and meet PennFuture on July 31!

PennFuture will have a strong presence at the hearing. So far, we know that Valessa Souter-Kline (Western Pa. Outreach Coordinator), Andrew Sharp (Director of Outreach), Elaine Labalme (Communications Manager) and I will all be there, and perhaps even more of our staff for parts of the day. We'd love to see you. And if you're new to any of us, come and introduce yourself.

Hope to see you on July 31, and to connect with you directly through email.
Joy Bergey

P.S. When young people ask me in 20 years what I did to help slow climate disruption, I'll tell them I worked like heck to turn an EPA hearing in Pittsburgh in the summer of 2014 into a huge rallying cry for federal action. I want to tell the kids that there were so many people in Pittsburgh that day, that the issue could no longer be ignored by our politicians. And I'd love to have you in a selfie with me at the hearing that day, to prove that we were there, and our voices were counted at this critical moment.

Joy Bergey is federal policy director for PennFuture and based in Philadelphia. She tweets @joybergey.