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

Monday, April 18, 2016

Three climate actions to take this Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day, PennFuture brings you three actions that you can take to help mitigate climate change. 

(1) Join us in thanking President Obama for his climate leadership by signing onto the United States’ Paris climate agreement pledge as a citizen signer 

This Earth Day, April 22, 2016, world leaders will gather at the United Nations in New York City to formally sign onto the Paris climate agreement. 

The historic agreement, negotiated by nearly 200 nations in late 2015, addresses the growing threat of global climate change with a pledge to hold the line on global temperature rise to “well below 2┬║ Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and an aim to achieve carbon neutrality in the latter half of the century. 

In fulfillment of goals under the Paris climate agreement, the Obama administration has already taken significant action to mitigate climate change in the United States. This includes the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever limit on carbon pollution from the power sector, as well as the soon-to-be finalized federal methane rule. These measures are important first steps to ensure the transition to clean energy and a habitable planet for future generations. 

Lend your support President Obama’s climate agenda and to the Paris climate agreement as a citizen signer.

(2) Fight climate change in your own backyard 

Photo credit: Ronald Gibson via NWF
Believe it or not, gardeners are on the front lines of climate change. From unpredictable growing seasons to the spread of invasive species and pests, gardeners nationwide are experiencing the negative effects of a warming planet. 

As the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) state affiliate, we’re happy to share the following smart and simple tips from its “Gardening for Wildlife” program to help you fight climate change and protect wildlife in your own backyard: 

  • Plant trees to absorb CO2 
  • Replace invasive plants with native species 
  • Reduce water consumption in your garden 
  • Reduce use of gasoline-powered tools 
  • Compost kitchen and garden waste 
  • Recognize your yard as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation 
(3) Become a green power purchaser 

By purchasing green power, you can help expand the growth of solar and wind farms in Pennsylvania and beyond. Congress has extended Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to help tax credits solar and wind farms for the next five years. This will help give clean energy an extra push but we need smart consumers to show interest and keep these pollution-free energy sources growing. 

Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina via Flickr
Need more information on why you should make the switch to renewable energy? Or maybe just more information on how to make the switch? Check out the following short videos by PennFuture - Understanding Your Bill and Making the Switch

We hope you’ll take these actions on Earth Day to help mitigate climate change! In addition, feel free to join PennFuture for the many events that we are hosting or participating in throughout Earth Week! 

Katie Bartolotta is southeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @KatieBartolotta. 

Dom McGraw, PennFuture volunteer based in Philadelphia, contributed to this post.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Friday the 13th conference explores oil train fears

Oil trains are an esoteric topic, but that does not mean they do not pose a significant threat to our safety and the environment. A frightening topic and only appropriate that the "Oil Trains 2015: Community Risks & Solutions Conference" was on Friday the 13th of November. It was also appropriate that the conference was held in Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, specifically), considering that 1.5 million Pennsylvanians live within a half-mile of tracks that carry crude oil, with most of these people living in environmental justice communities, according to this PublicSource article quoting PennFuture policy director, Matt Stepp. 

So why is this conference important? Why should Pennsylvanians worry about oil trains? 
Well, there are many reasons. For residents of western Pennsylvania, there's the significant issue of crumbling infrastructure. Built in 1904, the Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge connects the north shore of the city to the heart of downtown Pittsburgh above the Allegheny River. Rob Walters of Three Rivers Waterkeeper points out that there is decaying and cracked concrete with exposed rebar on each of the piers that fasten the bridge to the riverbed along with widespread rust and holes throughout the underside of the bridge. Aging infrastructure such as rail lines and bridges are cause for concern, but when the cargo is crude oil, the risks are greater. If a train carrying crude oil derailed on this bridge, the resulting explosion would have a catastrophic impact on the environment and the 130,000 people who live and work within the half-mile evacuation zone of the bridge. 

As one can see, aging infrastructure combined with the inherent risks of oil trains can have devastating consequences such as those from the deadly Lac-M├ęgantic derailment disaster in 2013. Under the Rail Safety Improvement Act and subsequent regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the federal government yields authority for bridge inspection and oversight to the owners of the bridges. However, the federal guidelines provide no minimum design standards for bridge construction for the owners to follow. In addition, the “competent persons” evaluating the bridges and developing bridge management plans for railroads are not required to have minimum qualifications such as an engineering degree, and federal officials do not need to be informed when railroads conduct bridge inspections and find safety issues. 

Not only do oil trains pose threats to our environment, but the proximity of crude oil trains to schools also pose substantial health risks to individuals in nearby communities due to emissions of fine particulate matter. According to Healthy Schools Pennsylvania, there are 316 schools in southwestern Pennsylvania within a one-mile radius of an active rail line. Alternatively, 81 school districts in the region have an active rail line within a one-mile radius of at least one school in that district. Crude oil trains vent carcinogens and other toxic gases into the atmosphere, but the new federal requirements announced in May 2015 do nothing to address this threat to public health.

Other regions in Pennsylvania are just as susceptible to these dangers, particularly southeast Pennsylvania. For instance, Philadelphia Energy Solutions is the nation’s largest consumer of fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale, with about 60 to 70 oil trains crossing Pennsylvania to deliver crude oil to refineries around Philadelphia each week. Crude oil trains pose a risk to the water supply in Philadelphia along the Schuylkill River. They also travel within close range of the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant, where a spill could threaten cooling water intake.

So is Pennsylvania doing anything about this? 
Some progress has been made, but more is needed. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is asking two freight railroad companies, CSX and Norfolk Southern, to reduce speeds to 35 m.p.h. for oil trains traveling through major urban cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Gov. Tom Wolf commissioned Allan M. Zarembski, a University of Delaware expert, to explore responses to a massive increase in oil train traffic and to assess ways to lower risks of derailments. He acknowledged that the state has limited leverage over federally regulated railroads but is seeking ways to reduce the risks. 

The Heinz EndowmentsForestEthics, and FracTracker Alliance convened this conference and training for environmental groups across the nation to come together to discuss how oil trains affect their communities. Discussions focused on how we can build a network to help make this issue a priority for Pennsylvanians as well as other states. Regulatory and oversight efforts at the state and federal level are important, but we must all be aware of the trains, their risks, and factors like inspections, infrastructure, and proximity to densely populated areas including schools. We must also ask how communities are to be protected and hold officials accountable. 

If you are interested in hearing more about the speakers from the conference, videos are now available on YouTube.

Annie Regan is western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Pittsburgh. She tweets @MsAnnieRegan.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Spotlight Erie, PA: Clean Power Plan training and DEP listening session

Erie, Pennsylvania: To most, this city is associated with tourist attractions such as Presque Isle State Park, Dobbins Landing, Waldameer Park, and the family favorite, Splash Lagoon. However, to the people that live here, it’s much more than that.

Like anywhere that’s considered home, it’s a place where they work, raise their kids, and interact with other members of their communities. Therefore, legislation such as the EPA’s Clean Power Plan greatly affects them, and many Erie residents say in a positive way.

For those who may be unfamiliar with this policy, here is a brief background: The Clean Power Plan is a recent effort to mitigate climate change and improve public health by limiting carbon pollution. It’s a flexible, state-driven approach, with Pennsylvania targeted to cut carbon 33.3 percent by 2030. Pennsylvania has until September 6, 2016 to submit their draft on how to achieve its goal and then another two years to submit the final, concrete plan. If Pennsylvania does not submit a plan, the EPA will implement its own federal carbon reduction strategy.

In order to meet these deadlines and craft a strong, customized implementation plan based on Pennsylvania’s unique energy mix, economy, and workforce, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) held more than a dozen listening sessions and a 2-month comment period on the plan, open to anyone willing to speak. One of those hearings took place in Erie.

A week prior to the hearing, PennFuture and the NW PA Green Economy Task Force sponsored a free training event open to the public with PennFuture Energy Center’s Director Rob Altenburg speaking about the Clean Power Plan and how it will benefit Erie as well as the rest of Pennsylvania. The demographics of the group of trainees ranged from a senior at Penn State working on his final capstone project that focuses on the lack of an emissions reduction target in the updated Climate Change Action Plan to a member of the Erie County Planning Department. Although everyone’s knowledge of the Clean Power Plan varied, trainees were able to help one another draft their testimonies and providing inspiration to some who were still ambivalent on speaking.

Erie resident Karen Shor was unsure if she should speak or not, but ultimately decided to let her voice be heard. “I am here and will be at the hearing because I believe in Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. As a Reform Jew, I don’t necessarily believe in heaven and hell. I believe that the only thing that lives on after we die is the work we do in this life. I want the world to be a better place because I was here. Plus, I firmly believe that ‘we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children’ and I want the children growing up to have a healthier place to live.

Guy McUmber, Northwest Branch Director of the Green Building Alliance (GBA), also attended the training and hearing, and was interested in the Clean Power Plan for other reasons, particularly how the Clean Power Plan can encourage high performance and healthy buildings. In his testimony he stated, “GBA believes the Clean Power Plan is an excellent opportunity for the Commonwealth to develop a progressive and comprehensive plan and related policies on energy efficiency and clean energy. Unfortunately, we have lacked this type of planning on a national and statewide level, although there have been many important programs created by individual states and municipalities. Having a coherent plan that ‘connects all the dots’ will lead to Pennsylvania making real progress in reducing fossil fuel usage and promoting cleaner alternatives.”

The hearing took place on October 29 at Blasco Library’s Hirt Auditorium and involved testimonies from people praising about their solar installations for their homes, as well as more touching anecdotes accompanied with pictures of a grandfather who had died of black lung disease due to unsafe mining practices. Of course, there were a few people in disagreement with the Clean Power Plan, but the majority demonstrating that they were indeed in favor in creating a healthier and safer environment for their community. In fact, according to a recent poll released by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, an average 61 percent of adults say they support the policy.

PennFuture would like to thank all who participated in the training as well as the hearing to help create a safer, healthier, and more sustainable Pennsylvania. 

Annie Regan is western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Pittsburgh.

24 Hours of Reality watch party in Pittsburgh

At PennFuture, we work hard every day to win environmental victories for your backyard, your local parks, and our shared planet. There are countless organizations around the globe who are also fighting for the health of people and planet, and the Climate Reality Project is one of them.

This Friday, the Climate Reality Project is presenting "24 Hours of Reality: The World is Watching," a global day of action and music to address climate change. PennFuture has strong ties to the Climate Reality Project as our president and CEO, Larry Schweiger, is a board member or the organization. A little less famous but involved nonetheless, I myself recently became a Climate Reality Leader after attending the training in Miami a little over a month ago.

In order to get the community in Pittsburgh involved, I’ve teamed up with Faith Nicholas, the Student Conservation Association fellow at the Higher Education Climate Consortium, to organize a watch party for the "24 Hours of Reality" so you can be a part of the action. Join us from 3 pm to 9 pm in Sanger Hall on Chatham University’s campus for live-streaming of the broadcast and also to hear about local initiatives fighting for our planet.

During this watch party, you'll be joining millions worldwide in urging our leaders to take action. Each hour, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore will share stories of progress from around the world and talk to influential artists, scientists, thought leaders, and policy makers about the exciting developments in clean energy and other areas that are bringing us to a global turning point on climate change.

This year's broadcast comes at a critical time for our climate, just before world leaders meet in Paris to create a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Snacks and drinks will be provided. Feel free to attend for as long or as little as you like!
For more information and to RSVP go to the event page on Facebook.

Nicole Catino is Penn Future’s 2015 Student Conservation Association Green Cities Sustainability Fellow and is based in Pittsburgh. 

Clean Power Plan Hearing in Pittsburgh: Bringing you updates on the day's events

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will convene a two-day hearing in Pittsburgh on the Clean Power Plan on November 12 and 13 -- one of only four EPA hearings to be held across the country. The Clean Power Plan is the first ever limit on carbon pollution for existing power plants. 

We need you to stand up and show your support FOR the Clean Power Plan, an essential first step toward mitigating climate change and improving air quality. Since the Clean Power Plan rule was finalized in August, big polluters have actively worked to dismantle it, using frivolous lawsuits and legislative attacks. 

No doubt, big polluters will be in Pittsburgh, too, to voice their opposition to the Clean Power Plan. That’s why we need you to be there, with PennFuture and our partners, to show your support for the Clean Power Plan and its benefits to climate, health, and the economy.

Citizens from all walks of life joined for the Clean Power Plan Rally
Thursday, November 12 – 11:30 am – 12:30 pm 
Outside of the William S. Moorhead Federal Building 
1000 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

If you can't voice your support in person, you still have time to let the EPA know your thoughts. Comments on the proposed Federal Plan and Model Rules for the Clean Power Plan must be received by January 21, 2016. More information is available on EPA’s website

Katie Bartolotta is southeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Guest Series - Speeding toward Paris: emissions accomplished?

We're kicking off a series of special posts featuring guest voices on climate change with Professor Paul A. Morgan, Ph.D.

In just a few weeks, representatives from more than 190 nations will gather in Paris for COP21, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The stakes are high. This may be the last best chance to reach a global agreement to reduce emissions enough to avoid overshooting the target of a two degrees Celsius average rise in global surface temperature above preindustrial levels. Beyond that number we invite “climageddon.”

The good news is that for more than a year now there has been a remarkable quickening of awareness and action on climate change. In September 2014, I joined hundreds of thousands of people in New York City for what was hailed as the largest climate march in history. A primary aim of the mobilization was to pressure world leaders gathered at the United Nations (U.N.) to take bold action on climate change. 

Less than two months later, the U.S. and China announced their intentions to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These commitments from the planet’s two largest emitters generated much needed momentum for the UNFCCC’s COP20 held in Lima, Peru in December 2014. After the relatively successful conclusion of that meeting, there was steady progress and guarded optimism.

To ensure success in Paris, though, there must have been calls for divine intervention. How else can we explain the phenomenon of Pope Francis and the release in June of Laudato Si’, his encyclical on climate change and the environment?  In September, the planet’s new climate change rock star went on tour, traveling to the United States where he spoke with moral authority on climate and other issues in the first ever papal address to a joint session of Congress. This was followed by a speech at the U.N. General Assembly that coincided with the formal adoption of the new global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It has been an extraordinary year for climate action and sustainability.

Of course, the story does not end here. Even if there is an ambitious agreement reached in Paris, it will only be a beginning, a commencement. There will no doubt be setbacks and much difficult work for years and decades to come. Still, can we now say that the momentum has finally shifted in favor of sustainability, climate sanity, and a fossil free future? I wish it were so. I can’t be the only one who has had the experience of being jolted awake and catching a glimpse a different reality outside the protective bubble of affluence, distractions, and day-to-day consciousness. It’s usually brought on by a sobering news report, an alarming article, or an eye opening presentation. The overwhelming realization is that there is a very different story unfolding outside the bubble. 

To begin, there are serious doubts about whether national emissions reduction pledges, the so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), will add up to what the science tells us is needed. Moreover, there are credible doubts about whether a two-degree Celsius target is too high. In a provocative and, yes, eye opening article that came out this summer, climate scientist James Hansen and his colleagues called that goal “highly dangerous.” These shortcomings could possibly be addressed in subsequent meetings, but there are even more volatile forces at play that can’t be so easily remedied with an international agreement.

By 2050, when today’s young people will be in their prime, the human population is projected to reach at least 9 billion and perhaps as many as 11 billion. The Earth may be able to handle that number, but the vast majority of those people will aspire to live like . . . me. Unfortunately, it’s not possible. The global development project of the last century has been a planetary Ponzi scheme. We in the wealthy industrialized countries got in early and have established a consumptive culture that simply cannot and should not be replicated. Yet there will nothing in a Paris agreement that compels cultural transformation or a reassessment of an economic system premised on endless growth.

There’s also the question of justice, which is more than an interesting topic for the leisured theory class. The effects of climate change are already affecting communities throughout the world. As more and more poor people experience the impacts of droughts and rising sea levels, they are going to look to the countries that have historically contributed the most to climate destabilization. That’s us. The current refugee crisis in Europe is just a taste of what may become a chronic crisis of climate refugees. The introduction of such a chaotic variable could quickly lead to conflicts and the unraveling of the social fabric, thereby rendering any climate agreement a quaint relic of a relatively stable past.

Such a scenario is imagined in a bracing 2014 book by Naomi Oreskes of Harvard, and Erik M. Conway of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Titled The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, they have crafted a work of science-based fiction that is more than a little frightening. Their premise is as follows:

The year is 2393, and the world is almost unrecognizable. Clear warnings of climate catastrophe went ignored for decades, leading to soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread drought and--finally--the disaster now known as the Great Collapse of 2093, when the disintegration of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet led to mass migration and a complete reshuffling of the global order. Writing from the Second People's Republic of China on the 300th anniversary of the Great Collapse, a senior scholar presents a gripping and deeply disturbing account of how the children of the Enlightenment--the political and economic elites of the so-called advanced industrial societies--failed to act, and so brought about the collapse of Western civilization.

If that seems preposterous, consider this passage from Hansen’s article cited earlier:

We conclude that continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization. This image of our planet with accelerating meltwater includes growing climate chaos and storminess, as meltwater causes cooling around Antarctica and in the North Atlantic while the tropics and subtropics continue to warm. Rising seas and more powerful storms together are especially threatening, providing strong incentive to phase down CO2 emissions rapidly.

What these passages tell us is that science fact is beginning to align with science fiction. The framing of climate change as an existential threat is now commonplace in popular culture, even if the frightening implications haven’t penetrated the bubble. One of the biggest movies of last year was Interstellar, which followed a team of NASA astronauts searching the stars for another planet where humans might be able to relocate, now that climate change has made Earth almost uninhabitable. Interesting, but NASA and Space X are having trouble getting rockets off the ground, and this year’s big movie, The Martian, only reinforces how absurd it is to think we can simply pack our bags and move to another planet if the situation gets too dicey. None of this bodes well for the future of humanity.

Meanwhile, if you’re a species other than a homo sapien, these are the worst of times – the worst in 65 million years anyway. It’s difficult to tell just by looking outside, but we’re in the midst of a mass extinction event. Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Sixth Extinction, chronicles what is surely the most overlooked and most important story on the Earth. Of the planetary boundaries that have been crossed, the global loss of biodiversity is the most distressing because it is irreversible. Extinctions are permanent, and the news is not getting any better.  Kolbert’s 2014 book was eclipsed in June of this year with the publication of a study concluding that the sixth mass extinction is underway and that “the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 100 times higher than the background rate.” The last mass extinction was caused by an asteroid. This time it’s an “usteroid.” It’s human-induced. Our increasing numbers, our consumptive culture, and our uncontrolled experiment with the climate have radically changed the conditions in which life has flourished for millions of years. We’re often reminded that each of those species plays an important role in the provision of ecosystem services. It’s true, but they also have a right to exist, despite claims that they are our ‘natural resources.’

There you have it, a sampling of the story that is unfolding outside the bubble of privilege, affluence, distraction, and consumption. No Paris agreement can possibly get at the scale and urgency of the challenge. There is an enormous gap, a chasm, separating the severity of our climate challenges and even our best responses. It’s an absolutely unique historical moment. As Jon Kohl puts it, “for the first time in human history, a particular worldview . . . is becoming conscious of its own impending fall (all previous civilizations collapsed probably without ever understanding why) and has the opportunity to consciously re-forge its worldview to confront the threat.”

To get a sense of what this means, imagine a set of railroad tracks extending into the distance.
 Our civilization began chugging along these tracks as a steam locomotive more than a century ago. Since then, more and more people have boarded and for those in first class, we have transformed that locomotive into a sleek high-speed civilizational train hurtling into the future. For the past several decades scientists in the front cars have warned us that there may be trouble ahead, but today, there is no doubt. The science is clear. The tracks will eventually end at the edge of a precipice. If we continue on these tracks we are headed for certain catastrophe. 

How have we responded to his news? Some people are a little freaked out because they see what’s coming and are walking toward the back of the train. Many of us, myself included, have been busy greening the train. We are changing light bulbs on the train; we are making it a hybrid train; we are installing energy-efficient windows on the train; we are putting a green roof on the train; we are installing waterless urinals on the train; we are serving local, organic food on the train; and we are even talking a lot about sustainability and climate change on the train. What’s the problem?  We’re still on the train. Contrary to an often repeated claim, our greening efforts are not making the train – our civilization – more sustainable; we’re making it less unsustainable. As John Ehrenfeld has argued in his writing, reducing unsustainability does not create sustainability. There’s a fundamental fallacy at work, a kind of magical thinking that believes doing more of what we are already doing will eventually, magically, get us where we need to go.

We have been focused on greening because, frankly, we don’t know what else to do. Greening is comfortable and fits how the problem has been framed. Climate change has typically been framed as a normal problem, a tame problem that can be addressed with the usual tools and strategies – technology, policy, education, and behavior change. A normal problem can be extremely serious and difficult, such as AIDS, but you can chip away at it and make steady, measurable, linear progress. A game changer, on the other hand, is different. It requires that we focus not on what surrounds us, what is easy to see on the train, but instead on the often invisible but powerful assumptions of our culture. These are the tracks that give direction to everything we do. Our climate crisis isn’t simply human-caused; it’s the result of people who are enacting specific answers to fundamental cultural questions: What kind of world is this? How do we fit into the world? What is happiness and how can it be achieved? What is progress? What is our vision of the future? Built into the answers are all kinds of questionable assumptions, for instance, about the possibility and desirability of limitless economic growth. It is becoming clear that this worldview is not designed for the long haul because it is out of sync with the way the world actually works. One consequence is climate change, a wicked problem that has to be addressed with more than ‘climate action.’ It will require a systemic transformation, a change of state.

Where do we go from here? We are currently locked into a rendezvous with catastrophe because we literally cannot imagine life off those tracks. A vision of the future has been implanted in our heads that promises a gleaming techno-utopia of flying cars and endless iPhone innovations. It’s the dream of the Jetsons, Back to the Future, and countless other fantasies that assume we can take leave of the real world of ecosystems, watersheds, soils, and other species. The Jetsons promised a future in which white people fly around in a world without trees eating food out of machines. It’s not desirable, but we are so entranced by such fantasies that they go unchallenged. Is our destiny to fulfill the story of the future we have been conditioned to accept as desirable and inevitable, even as it consumes the world? If not, our most urgent task is to wake up from our techno-utopian trance and envision a new future. This is primarily because we can’t create what we can’t imagine. 

The unprecedented challenge before each of us is to operate in the old game (on the train) – where we have our jobs and a habitual way of life – while simultaneously helping to create fertile conditions in which a radically new way of being, a genuinely sustainable culture, might begin to emerge. On a practical level this means increasing the pressure and turning up the heat. The temptation is to focus exclusively on winning the old game of policy proposals and technological innovation. While these may buy us time, eventually we must begin creating a new game, a new set of tracks, with a new set of assumptions that can provide humanity and all species a viable future for the long haul. A tea kettle will not boil (change state) if we turn down the heat every time we celebrate a new Tesla or a new international climate agreement.

For inspiration, we should imagine the story people will tell two hundred years from now – in 2215 – about how we managed to get off track and begin making a new culture. The COP21 in Paris may be mentioned, but the real story may be how regular people woke up and catalyzed a cultural transformation of epoch-changing proportions. At the heart of this will be something that Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, highlighted in a talk he gave several years ago. He said, “Because of climate change and other mounting ecological threats, everything must change. We may be entering the most creative period in human history.”  

Paul A. Morgan is a Professor in the Department of Professional and Secondary Education at West Chester University of Pennsylvania (

‘Tis the season – for public hearings

This year, PennFuture members have publicly testified on an array of issues before the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Members, staff, and advocates are countering the claims of industry polluters and communicating with policy makers. We're advocating for a strong state implementation plan to comply with the Clean Power Plan (CPP), stressing the need to address harmful methane pollution from oil and gas drilling, and developing the commonwealth’s state forest management plan.

The common denominator among each of these hearings is that your voice matters to environmental decision makers. 

Knowing this to be true, we encourage you to get involved with a hearing on the Clean Power Plan that is quickly approaching. The EPA is seeking comments on the federal implementation plan (FIP), the one-size-fits-all alternative to an individual state implementation plan (SIP). The FIP ensures that all states are brought into compliance and reduce carbon under the Clean Power Plan even if they choose not to take action. It's the ultimate backstop and disincentive for states that have no intention of submitting their own plan. 

While it's encouraging that the EPA is serious about achieving compliance even if states don't want to cooperate, it's essential to emphasize that Pennsylvania’s best option is to pursue a strong state implementation plan

Pennsylvania is well positioned to draft its own aggressive, flexible state implementation plan that puts the commonwealth on track for a zero-carbon energy future. While the FIP can mirror some of the positive elements of a strong state plan – a mass-based, trade-ready structure and clean energy incentives, for example – we should be extremely cautious to choose rigidity over flexibility. 

If you’re interested in giving testimony at this hearing or attending the kick-off rally preceding the first day of the hearing – let us know! We can help coordinate transportation, provide information, give feedback on testimony, and answer any questions you may have about the Clean Power Plan. 

Thursday, November 12  11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Outside of the William S. Moorhead Federal Building
1000 Liberty Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Thursday, November 12
9:00 am – 8:00 pm
William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Room 1310
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Friday, November 13
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Room 1310
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

To register for either date – sign up online, via phone at (919) 541–0832, or email to Virginia Hunt at

Comments on the proposed Federal Plan and Model Rules for the Clean Power Plan must be received by January 21, 2016. More information is available on EPA’s website

Katie Bartolotta is southeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.