MCAF: What is unique about protecting Allegheny County’s resources?
Controller Wagner: During the 20th Century, the natural resources of Allegheny County together with its hard-working residents caused the area to be known as the “Workshop of the World.” Now, in the 21st Century, Allegheny County is poised to benefit from natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale formation. Our pressing challenge is how to leverage our natural gas resources in a way that benefits all residents of Allegheny County, not just the gas drillers. Our challenge is to maximize the value of our resources while protecting our environment, particularly our many rivers, streams and creeks. It is imperative for leaders in Allegheny County to seek to maintain the quality of life of our region, and not be distracted by ephemeral prospects of short-term jobs and one-time payments. As I look around the country and the world, there are numerous examples of places that have adopted a holistic, long-range view of their natural resources, using those resources as a spring-board to sustained growth and the viability of their communities and neighborhoods. Unfortunately, there exists an equal, if not larger, number of places where mineral extractors and drillers have come in, benefited from weak regulatory schemes and a political class all too eager to accept their money, and then left the area in a worse condition than when they found it. Allegheny County needs responsible regulations and smart growth. Here in Pennsylvania, our state government under the Corbett Administration has abdicated many of its responsibilities of environmental stewardship. Because of this vacuum, Allegheny County must take the lead to vigilantly protect the interests of its citizens and future generations.
As a parent are you worried about the effects of climate change on your children and the children of Allegheny County?
Yes. What is even more worrisome beyond the effects of climate change is that many politicians in Pennsylvania (and America) continue to deny that climate change is caused by human action or that it has even occurred. Given the scientific evidence, the fact that we still need to debate and defend climate change is a startling and scary proposition. As a mother of two young children, this leaves me very concerned for their future and the future of people everywhere. It is all the more troubling because right now, as I write this, there are simple projects and policies that if implemented, would yield large, long-term dividends in terms of staving off the worse effects of climate change. Dealing with climate change immediately is not just an ethical imperative, but it makes good economic sense. Not just from the standpoint of preventing the increased storms and disasters associated with climate change, but also through growing “green” jobs and industries that can employ our children while at the same time securing our future. It is sad and tragic to think of the histories that will be written in the year 2113, when our generation will be viewed as the generation that could have done something but instead stuck its collective head in the sand. We still have time to re-write this history, but the clock is ticking.
Why is bi-partisan effort so important and how can these efforts be achieved in our politically polarizing culture?
As a former State representative, I know first-hand how important bi-partisan efforts can be to the success of any legislative action. What it takes are leaders on both sides of the aisle. It also takes an active, involved citizenry to communicate to all elected officials that the health of our planet is not a partisan issue. I submit that regardless of your political affiliation or ideology nobody wants to live in a place with water they cannot drink, air they cannot breathe and natural spaces they cannot enjoy. Certainly the elected leaders who consistently vote against environmental protections do not live in garbage dumps, and neither do their constituents. There are times within our recent memory where environmental legislation has received bi-partisan support. After all, it was Richard Nixon who created the EPA by executive order. Taking action for the environment is not just about more regulation or saying “no” to development, it is also about saying “yes” to creating new industries, growing jobs, building communities, saving money on our healthcare, and still maintaining our existing industries. And to this point, we need to show and convince folks in our region that we can protect their jobs and livelihoods while also protecting the environment. Solutions need not and cannot be mutually exclusive. The technology exists. But what we really need is the commitment and will of our elected leaders, and the continued advocacy of groups like Moms Clean Air Force to ensure that environmentalism makes sense to everyone without respect to ideology or party affiliation.
Is there anything you would like to share that is important for Moms Clean Air Force members to know?
Beyond what I have said above, I would like other moms to remember that it is important to examine our actions on a daily basis, since those actions will influence the belief systems of our children for years to come. We need to ask ourselves, are our daily actions consistent with our beliefs of sound environmental stewardship? Simple actions that we take through recycling, our purchases at the grocery store, turning-off electrical devices and using rain barrels, to name but a few, raise the awareness of our children and offer them a great starting point to become mindful, responsible global citizens.
Thank you, Controller Wagner!
About Controller Chelsa Wagner: As the County’s top fiscal officer, Controller Chelsa Wagner leads the fight against inefficient and inequitable spending, working to root out fraud, waste and abuse in County government. Between 2006-2011 Chelsa represented southern and western neighborhoods of the City of Pittsburgh and South Hills suburban communities in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Chelsa was raised in the South Pittsburgh neighborhood of Beechview and now resides in the city’s North Point Breeze neighborhood with her husband and their two sons.