Fri, 28 September 2007
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today on the first mayoral debate of the campaign season last night, hosted by the Pittsburgh Design Coalition. Check out this quote from the article:
Boy, are we glad to hear it! Now let's hope the candidates can agree that finding workable alternatives for Pittsburgh and the Mon Valley should be among the priorities for our region's transportation planners.
We're working on helping communities in the
Wed, 26 September 2007
Supporters of the Mon-Fayette Toll Road, a proposed Turnpike expansion project in southwestern Pennsylvania, say the project is necessary to attract economic development and to retain young people in our region. But that underestimates the impact that the Mon-Fayette’s car and truck pollution would have on the area's residents, economy, and quality of living.
In this podcast, PennFuture's Andrea Boykowycz speaks with Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and Michael Parker of Group Against Smog and Pollution. They elaborate on just how the Mon-Fayette would affect our health, and the health of our region’s economy-- and the outlook is bad on both counts.
Braddock is squarely in the path of the proposed Pittsburgh leg of the Mon-Fayette Toll Road. As Braddock Mayor John Fetterman testified last month before the State Transportation Commission, the proposed toll road is a menace to his community in more ways than one. The threat that the Turnpike would acquire right-of-way for this road has been an obstacle to economic and community re-development in Braddock for decades -- and the traffic that the road would deliver (if it's ever built) would blanket it in diesel fumes. Braddock already has some of the highest asthma rates of any municipality in our region. Plowing a highway right through the middle of town will only make Braddock's residents sicker.
It's not just Braddock's lungs that would suffer, either. Because Allegheny County is a non-attainment area for PM 2.5 pollution (meaning, the EPA has determined our air doesn't meet federal standards for soot pollution), any new fine particulate pollution source -- such as a new four-lane highway -- would make it that much harder for new businesses to locate here, or for existing businesses to expand. This is because we're prohibited by federal law from adding to our pollution problem; any new emissions sources would need to pay to mitigate the effects they'd have on our region's air quality.
Far from delivering economic opportunity to the Mon Valley, the Mon-Fayette would only create an additional obstacle to development. Building it would cost $3.6 billion -- but it would also cost us our health and a sizable chunk of our economic future.
We shouldn't have to shoulder any of those costs. Communities in the Mon Valley deserve much better.
For more information about the Mon-Fayette and what we can do to help Mon Valley communities move forward with achievable alternatives, visit PennFuture's Mon-Fayette campaign page. While you're there, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to our work. As always, we welcome your comments. Just email us at podcast (at) pennfuture (dot) org, or click on "Comments" below.
Fri, 21 September 2007
Battle for Energy
Will Pennsylvania win energy independence or surrender? The stakes are that big.
Politics as usual will lose the battle for energy independence by doing nothing, or passing small items that make no real difference to how much energy is consumed or how energy is made. Winning energy independence means boosting energy conservation and curtailing the addiction to oil and coal.
To be specific, winning this vital battle means Pennsylvania must require:
Bipartisan Support Grows for HSCA
Senator Charles McIlhinney (R-Bucks) plans to introduce companion legislation, Senate Bill 1059, in the very near future.
Haul Your Ash Out of
Don't have time for the exhaustive report? Watch the video.
Vance Proposes Shift in
Truck Idling Practices
This week Senator Pat Vance (R-Cumberland and York) introduced legislation to significantly restrict the idling of commercial diesel vehicles. Senate Bill 1095 prohibits these trucks from idling more than five minutes, with certain exceptions, if the outside temperature is between 40 and 80 degrees.
On May 16, the Environmental Quality Board voted to accept DEP's recommendation that the agency develop statewide anti-idling regulations. The move was in a response to a petition submitted by the Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania.
Not Another Lawyer Joke
Category:Session Daze -- posted at: 11:12 AM
Tue, 18 September 2007
Wind energy is the best energy source in Pennsylvania when one considers the options available and the costs and benefits to our economy, environment, and to public health. PennFuture's President and CEO took to the Capitol to speak to people directly about the overwhelmingly positive aspects of wind energy production and development in the Commonwealth. Pictured to the right are but a few reminders of how coal causes harm: through mining, through poisoning wildlife such as birds and fish via toxic pollution, and by creating many public health problems such as worsening asthma or contributing to premature deaths when burned for electricity. More than half of Pennsylvania's electricity production comes from coal-fired power plants.
In this podcast, listen in as John details why wind is a win for Pennsylvania during a press conference, and why PennFuture is committed to working to help reduce the long list of damages caused by traditional power production. Our work to promote clean, alternative energy like wind is complemented and strengthened by our work fighting air pollution and toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, working to protect communities from devastating impacts of coal mining, and striving to stop global warming and its many impacts on all aspects of life.
Following are but a few basic but important facts about wind energy:
-Electricity from Pennsylvania’s wind farms creates no air pollution. Wind energy emits no mercury that is poisoning birds, fish and working its way into the human food chain, no soot that kills 2,000 Pennsylvanians each year and belches from coal plants, no arsenic, no smog causing pollution that sickens and kills humans, and no global warming pollution that is causing dangerous climate change that will destroy Pennsylvania’s existing forests.
- Every kilowatt-hour of zero pollution electricity produced at a wind farm is a kilowatt-hour that will not be produced by traditional dirty generation sources that cause massive environmental damage. Supply and demand for electricity must constantly be kept in balance and so every kilowatt-hour produced by a wind farm is instantly consumed and avoids the need for that kilowatt-hour coming from another dirty plant.
- Wind energy helps Pennsylvania reduce our contributions to the global warming problem; Pennsylvania ranks third worst in the nation for production of heat-trapping gases that cause global warming, as much
as 105 countries combined. That equates to a full 1 percent of the world’s total global warming pollution.
- Wind energy has no fuel costs. Investing in wind energy now means that costs will never escalate in the
years ahead, no matter what. The same cannot be said for traditional sources of energy in Pennsylvania.
- Pennsylvania’s forest, wildlife, and water resources are enhanced and protected by wind energy production, since it does not result in pollution. Each and every wind project proposed in Pennsylvania is reviewed thoroughly by four state regulatory agencies, applying guidelines that were designed specifically for the Commonwealth, using the best science from all sources. These reviews are conducted for two years prior to the construction of a wind project. Many wind energy companies have voluntarily agreed to the nation’s most rigorous set of project review guidelines and requirements developed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Pennsylvania is a model for the U.S. in this regard.
- More than 1,000 Pennsylvanians are already employed in Pennsylvania’s wind industry. Gamesa, a wind turbine manufacturer, shortly will be hiring another 300 Pennsylvanians. That is just the beginning of the many good paying jobs wind power is bringing now to Pennsylvania.
To learn more about why PennFuture supports wind energy, energy conservation, and the effort to move us toward a clean energy future, visit our Web site. There you can take action to voice your support for energy independence and wind energy, and make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work. As always, we welcome your comments. Just e-mail us at podcast (at) pennfuture (dot) org, or click on "Comments" below.
Fri, 14 September 2007
Ozone can be both very harmful, and a life-sustaining feature of our planet's composition. Stratospheric ozone, a layer far above ground level, perpetually protects us from the sun's harmful UV rays. But ground-level ozone, a byproduct of pollution from tailpipes and smokestacks that reacts in sunlight to form what we know better as smog, creates a dangerous and even deadly situation. Ground-level ozone smog has significant health impacts ranging from inducing or worsening asthma to contributing to premature deaths. Medical research tells us clearly that ozone pollution must be decreased in order to protect public health today, and in the world of tomorrow.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the health impacts of ground-level ozone on human beings; the agency was given the responsibility under the federal Clean Air Act to take steps to reduce and prevent pollution that hurts human health. Ozone pollution standards currently in effect have not done enough to protect us, and the EPA is now considering whether to tighten up the rules, and if so, by how much. Early indications are that the EPA's proposals are falling short of scientific recommendations on the issue. A series of five public hearings are being held by the EPA to discuss the challenge of reducing ozone in our air, and a public comment period on the proposed rule is open until October 9th, 2007.
In this podcast, PennFuture's Christine Knapp, who testified on behalf of PennFuture at the Philadelphia hearing, speaks with several individuals who took time to publicly comment on the need for a more protective ozone standard. Join us in listening as Natalie McCloskey, volunteer for the American Lung Association, Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association, and Ben Dunham, Associate Legal Counsel for EarthJustice share their perspectives on the many problematic impacts of ozone on our lives.
To read more about the EPA's findings on the impact of ozone, view their ozone section of their web site. To find out more information about how PennFuture is working to protect health and improve air quality, please visit our Web Site. There you can also make a tax-deductible contribution. We encourage you to join us in discussion of these issues by e-mailing us at podcast (at) pennfuture (dot) org, or commenting through the link below.
Fri, 7 September 2007
PennFuture's Session Daze is designed to be a brief, informative and occasionally humorous look at public policy in Pennsylvania. Please visit our website for more information about PennFuture.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat – Except with Black Gunk
In a cycle seeming without end, FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield power plant smokestacks continue to belch black gunk that settles all over the town of Shippingport and neighboring communities like Raccoon Township in Beaver County. After each episode, residents demand to know what potential health problems they might suffer – going so far as to getting their own tests of the black rain – and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) fines FirstEnergy for violating its clean air permit.
Now the Beaver County Times reports that local residents are trying to jump off this not-so-Merry-Go-Round. Shippingport Borough Council members demanded answers from officials from FirstEnergy and DEP. According to the newspaper report, Councilman Terry Ordich said a DEP report on the incident seemed to be written in a foreign language.
Residents want plain English explanations of the problems at the plant and also want the problems there fixed. They are also demanding details about the composition of the pollution and the possible health impacts of it for their families, pets, and wildlife. PennFuture and the Environmental Integrity Project have notified FirstEnergy that they intend to sue to stop these massive air pollution violations.
The Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund Two-Step
Step One - Representatives Rick Taylor (D-Montgomery) and Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) will be introducing legislation to keep the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund (HSCA) solvent through the end of this fiscal year. The legislation, HB 1810, has already attracted 55 co-sponsors of both parties. It would transfer $30 million of the state's budget surplus to HSCA. (Note: There is still time for more members to sign on before the bill's formal introduction later this month.)
Step Two – Senator John Rafferty (R-Berks, Chester, Montgomery) has introduced a bottle bill, SB 1035, to provide permanent funding for HSCA. The legislation would authorize a nickel deposit on beverage containers and use money collected but not redeemed by consumers as the revenue source.
This bill has attracted the opposition of a coalition of business interests that includes soda and water bottlers and beer brewers, waste companies and associations, convenience and food store associations and others who claim that a bottle bill is bad for the state, the environment and consumers. That flies in the face of the successful programs up and running in eleven other states. Some of these programs are so successful at reducing litter and expanding recycling that states are expanding their programs.
This Preview is Rated P-G
Coming soon to the Capitol and to the Pennsylvania Cable Network, premiering on September 17: "Survivor Pennsylvania - The Special Legislative Session on Energy Policy."
This special session is brought to you by a deal between Governor Rendell and Senate Republicans that was struck when the budget agreement was reached.
The governor wanted the Energy Independence Strategy to be addressed in June along with the budget. The strategy includes an $850 million fund for development of renewable energy projects, energy efficiency measures, and consumer rebates for energy efficient appliances. The legislators refused to consider it in June, but promised to provide funding during the special session.
Also on the agenda: moving the PennSecurity Fuels Initiative, which would commit the state to producing 900 million gallons of its own transportation fuel –completely offsetting the amount we currently import from the Middle East. PennFuture is also drafting legislation that would require that energy conservation be increased to reduce growth in electricity demand and to require utilities to install smart meters in customers' properties. Governor Rendell and a growing group of bipartisan legislators support both initiatives.
Preseason Scrimmage - House Consumer Affairs Committee Hearing
The House Consumer Affairs Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to gather information about how the end of caps on electricity rates will affect consumers and the utility industry. PennFuture's president and CEO, John Hanger, testified at the hearing emphasizing the important role of renewable energy, energy conservation and smart meter technology in helping to minimize the expected rate increases after 14 years of electricity rate caps. Expanding supply with renewable fuels and reducing demand by cutting waste is the only recipe for easing the impact on household budgets.
Others testifying included J. Michael Love, president and CEO of the Energy Association of Pennsylvania; Stephen Feld, Associate General Counsel, FirstEnergy; Lisa Crutchfield, Senior Vice President, Regulatory and External Affairs, PECO Energy Company; Doug Krall, manager of regulatory strategy for PPL Electric Utilities; PUC Chairman Wendell Holland; Dave Turner, Senior Vice President, Geslalt; Sonny Popowsky, Consumer Advocate of Pennsylvania; William Lloyd, Small Business Advocate; Douglas Biden, President, Electric Power Generation Association; and Frank Lacey from Direct Energy, who spoke on behalf of the Retail Energy Supply Association.
More than Just a Place to Congregate
A workshop to help congregations reduce their energy costs, "Energy Costs and the Environment: The Practical and Moral Bottom Line for Your Congregation," will be offered two times, once each on Saturday and Sunday, October 6 and 7 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg. The workshop will feature Andy Rudin, coordinator for the Interfaith Coalition on Energy and offer practical advice and real solutions to cutting energy costs. The workshop is limited to the first 100 registrants, cost is $20, and the deadline for registration is September 28. For more information contact Anne Yellott.
Category:Session Daze -- posted at: 1:51 PM
Fri, 7 September 2007
The Mon-Fayette Toll Road is a Turnpike Expansion project that has been planned for decades to connect Morgantown, WV to Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River Valley. The proposed 24-mile “Pittsburgh leg? of this road is currently projected to cost $3.6 billion, more than twice what’s been spent on all other sections of the Mon-Fayette and Southern Beltway projects combined. The region’s roads and bridges are suffering from neglect partly as a result of all the money that’s been spent on the Mon-Fayette in Washington and Fayette Counties – but ironically this fact is being exploited by the toll road’s boosters, who peddle their multi-billion dollar boondoggle as the only way to provide transportation access to the Mon Valley from Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, completing the Mon-Fayette will only draw more resources away from maintenance and safety investments in the region's infrastructure.
Improving accessibility in the Mon Valley doesn’t have to cost billions. Some projects that operate on a much smaller scale have the potential to boost economic and transportation investment in the region, without damaging the environment. In this podcast, PennFuture's Western Pennsylvania Outreach Coordinator Andrea Boykowycz tours the future riverfront trail connection between McKeesport and Pittsburgh with Steel Valley Trail Council President Hannah Hardy, and talks about future Pittsburgh Mon Valley trail connections with Friends of the Riverfront Executive Director Tom Baxter. You can follow along with Andrea and Hannah on the SVTC’s trail map.
For more information about the Mon-Fayette and what we can do to help Mon Valley communities move forward with achievable alternatives, visit PennFuture’s Mon-Fayette campaign page. While you're there, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work. As always, we welcome your comments. Just email us at podcast (at) pennfuture (dot) org, or click on "Comments" below.