Moms Clean Air Force talked to Representative Chris Rabb about his climate action work in the state legislature, what motivates him to address our climate crisis, and how we can advocate for the policies we want and need to protect the future of our children.
Rabb, who serves the 200thdistrict of PA – consisting of Chestnut Hill, parts of Northwest Philadelphia, and West Mount Airy – has focused a significant amount of his legislative policy on climate action. Currently he co-sponsors the “100% Renewables Bill,” a bipartisan bill aimed at getting Pennsylvania to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
The measures in the identical House and Senate bills would create a new task force and a center for clean energy excellence. It will also begin the Just Transition Community Advisory Committee to help ensure workers displaced from fossil fuel industries find new jobs.
With about two dozen bills circulating within the first few months of this term, Rabb says his work is all connected by the idea of justice:
“When I think about climate action I think about justice – economic justice, racial justice, gender justice – you can’t extract those other issues from talking about climate peril.”
Rabb believes that if we can implement plans like the Renewables Bill, we can create economic benefits that would please both sides of the aisle:
“Not only are we averting crisis, we’re also potentially pivoting and creating a green infrastructure which would include family sustaining green jobs, reducing the impact on public health, and doing all kinds of things that would reimagine what society looks like.”
But getting this bill passed may be an uphill battle in a state so indentured to the oil and gas industries. For instance, currently, Pennsylvania is one of seven states that produces natural gas, but it is the only one without a severance tax:
“We have to play chess, right now we’re playing checkers. Taxing big corporations as we should – that’s the checkers. But the question is, is that the right tax? I believe we should have a carbon tax – anyone who pollutes should pay a tax on that pollution.”
Rabb says the notion of natural gas as being “cheap” loses its value once you have a sinkhole in your backyard or a child with respiratory issues:
‘Just because it’s better than coal – that’s like saying hemlock is better than strychnine – it’s still poison.
We have to reimagine what energy looks like and how we conserve and reduce. And that requires a formal definitive commitment from all stakeholders with milestones and incentives.”
Rabb also believes there comes a point when reason is not enough, and everyday people need to take action.
“As a beneficiary of the civil rights movement and other social justice movements that allow me the opportunities I have today, we need some civil disobedience. We must take to the streets and the halls of power. Some of these decisions are made in publicly accessible meetings but the public doesn’t show up.”
Rabb says he is at his best when his constituents help him do his job better. He says the most effective way to get the attention of a state representative is flooding the phone lines. This prevents staff from communicating with constituents and motivates the staff to demand he give a stance on an issue:
“My small staff needs to keep those lines open, so if you raise hell in my district or office, it grinds operations to a halt.”
He also recommends showing up at committee meetings in Harrisburg. Some of these rooms only hold 50 people, and the in-person accountability can make a big difference.
“Or you can take 90 seconds to make a call – if I get 10 calls on a bill my staff will realize something is going on.
Rabb applauds groups like Moms Clean Air Force for training parent advocates who do just that.
To watch the whole interview with State Rep. Rabb, click here. Do you want to take action? Join us, along with PennEnvironment and others, on June 19th in Harrisburg to rally with Representative Rabb for 100% renewable energy, and to meet with your state legislators to ask them to take action on climate change!