With days to go in this year’s session, Pa. lawmakers rally for environmental justice bills

Produced By: - September 20, 2022 2:43 pm

The challenges confronting lawmakers as they try to fight climate change across the commonwealth are significant. But at least one state lawmaker says she’s feeling hopeful for some wins.

“I remain optimistic that we are beginning to enter a hopeful new era of climate action,” state Sen. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester, said Tuesday as she and her legislative colleagues, along with advocates, rallied for the approval of a suite of climate change-fighting legislation that’s now before the General Assembly. ” … I’m hopeful because public policy is starting to align with the urgency of the climate crisis. I’m hopeful because individuals and families are increasingly empowered to make environmentally smart decisions to cut emissions, to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and to be more energy efficient.”

Comitta’s comments came amid Climate Action Week observances, and as the clock ticks down on this year’s legislative session. 

The Republican-controlled state House and Senate have just a handful of days remaining on their respective voting calendars before the current session ends in November. That means any bill that is not passed by both chambers, and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will die, and will have to be introduced again in next year’s legislative session.

Democratic lawmakers and advocates who rallied Tuesday stressed the urgency of action, observing that those hardest hit by the economic and public health costs of climate change — Black, brown and low-income communities — are those least able to afford it.

“Climate action cannot happen without environmental justice,” Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, the chairperson of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, said.

Rep. Rick Krajewski, D-Philadelphia, offered a similar analysis, underscoring it with the story of a massive tire fire in his home city last fall that “created toxic smoke fumes that could be seen across the city.” One in five children in Philadelphia suffer from asthma because of air pollution, he added.

“When you prioritize profits over people, the lives of our most vulnerable residents are at stake,” he said.

The evidence of climate change extends far beyond Pennsylvania. All the commonwealth’s residents have to do is turn on the news to see the devastation in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Fiona, Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, said.

“We need to expand the conversation and the scope of what climate action means,” she said, adding that this week, lawmakers are “lifting up the dozens of bills and solutions proposed by Climate Caucus members that would help Pennsylvania advance environmental justice, hold polluters accountable, invest in innovation around clean energy technologies, and build resilient communities that can withstand the impacts of climate change.”


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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.


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