This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Bullock:
What is unique about protecting Pennsylvania’s resources?
Pennsylvania is unique in that it has a constitutional claim to our natural resources. Article I, Section 27, “Natural Resources and the Public Estate,” of the Pennsylvania Constitution states:
“Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
As powerful as that statement is, it seems to be ignored in many of the sweetheart deals handed to special interests since the Marcellus Shale drilling boom took off in Pennsylvania. Such impropriety was recently highlighted in our ongoing state budget impasse, another dubious and unique storyline in Pennsylvania. In early January, the House majority party passed a budget companion bill known as the Fiscal Code bill, which contained language to interfere with Pennsylvania’s ability to comply with federal greenhouse gas regulations and force officials to redraw Pennsylvania’s oil and gas drilling regulations, which have been under development for years. The Fiscal Code bill also would strike $12 million from the Alternative Energy Investment Fund and spend it on fossil-fuel infrastructure.
I voted against the bill, and Governor Tom Wolf, by all accounts, is prepared to veto it should it pass the state Senate.
As a parent are you worried about the effects of climate change on your children and the children of Pennsylvania?
Yes. As a lawmaker with two young children, I feel double the pressure to act on clean air and climate measures. (Tweet this) I am particularly concerned about the effects of climate change on children who live in urban communities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and who are disproportionately at higher risk of asthma and other respiratory conditions. Other effects also rack up on our future generations: food shortages and diseases brought on by a stressed food economy and distribution system add up to hardships for our children and their children. Additionally, as the science behind climate change shows, more climate-related disasters occur with each season, and it’s only a matter of time before one touches our lives.
As a legislator and a member of the House Democratic Policy Committee, I am constantly looking for ways to champion statewide strategies to embrace clean energy. Pennsylvania is at the tip of the spear when it comes to natural-gas harvesting and is soon to be, as well, with respect to its pipeline infrastructure. The impediments to developing a plan that embraces best environmental practices in this political landscape are many, especially when special interests are at play. One of the best things I can do is to lead by example and make tough votes on policies that would seek to derail progress toward cleaner air – even while embracing new energy sources.
Why is a bipartisan effort so important and how can these efforts be achieved in our politically polarizing culture?
The only way to enact fair, substantive and effective clean air policy is to eschew special interests and legislate for the people. People want clean air, water and food. These are our most basic needs, and I believe that each generation recognizes more of the changing threats to them. Campaign finance reform could go a long way in taking big money out of politics and return the voting process to the people. There are lawmakers on all sides of the aisle who recognize the importance of voting in favor of a clean environment, but they are threatened by the campaigns against them. I believe that fear impedes their professional growth and moral fortitude. If we did more to eliminate the bullies of progress, the polarization would become less pronounced and the pendulum for environmental safety and cleanliness could swing back into balance in Pennsylvania.
Is there anything you’d like to share that is important for Moms Clean Air Force members to know?
Pennsylvania released a scientific assessment of the impacts of climate disruption on Pennsylvania. The report, prepared for the Department of Environmental Protection at the direction of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, finds that Pennsylvania has warmed 1.8°F in the past 110 years, and the warming will increase at an accelerated rate. By 2050, Pennsylvania will be 5.4°F warmer than it was in the year 2000. By 2050, Philadelphia’s climate will be similar to current-day Richmond, Va. Pittsburgh will be similar to current-day Washington, D.C. or Baltimore, Md.
State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives representing the 195th Legislative District in North and West Philadelphia. She and her husband, Otis Bullock, a lawyer and Temple University alum as well, live a life of service in Strawberry Mansion, a community they are proud to call home.
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