This Mother’s Day we honor the work of mom leaders and legislators and celebrate their contribution to protecting the environment and prioritizing the health and future of our children.
Our Pennsylvania team interviewed mom, grandmother, former educator, and Pennsylvania State Senator Carolyn T. Comitta to learn more about what drives her to fight for clean air and a healthier future for everyone.
What inspires you to support policies and legislation that tackle the climate crisis and protect our children from air pollution?
I’m inspired by my role and my experiences as a mother, a grandmother, and an educator. I became involved in public service to create a better, brighter, and cleaner world for our young people. That is a driving source of inspiration for me. It has motivated and shaped so much, if not all, of my work in the legislature and throughout my career.
The threat of climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing our nation and our world today. It is no longer looming on the horizon. Climate change is here, and we are seeing its impacts grow more severe and more dangerous with each passing day. We also know that if we fail to act now, the consequences will be catastrophic for future generations.
On a positive note, young people are stepping up and making their voices heard, demanding change. I am inspired by the energy, passion, and perspective that children, teens, and young people bring to environmental advocacy.
This is the next generation of voters and lawmakers. We have a duty to ensure they are informed, empowered, and prepared to lead.
What have you done to support Black, brown, Indigenous, and low socio-economic communities who have experienced disproportionate environmental mpacts from an inequitable system?
While pollution has an impact on our entire environment, its burden is not evenly shared. Studies show that minority and low and lower-income communities have been more negatively impacted by environmental inequalities. We see this most in higher infant mortality, lower birth weights, and a greater incidence of asthma and other serious health issues.
We continue to work to ensure that environmental justice concerns are addressed in Pennsylvania’s plans to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). But any steps we take to reduce emissions and shift to a clean energy economy, whether it be RGGI or updating our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS), should and must benefit all communities.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), up to 639 premature deaths from respiratory illnesses will be prevented due to emission reductions resulting directly from RGGI participation and 30,000 fewer hospital visits for respiratory illnesses like asthma for children and adults.
Is there anything you’d like to highlight for Pennsylvania’s 96,000 members?
I’m proud my home community of West Chester Borough is a leader in defending the environment, including banning single-use plastics and reducing emissions. I’m also proud of the work being done in Chester County to address climate change and preserve nearly 30 percent of our land as open space.
This past year has been critical for our Commonwealth, for our nation, and for our planet. I continue to strive to build the consensus necessary to advance important legislative initiatives like RGGI and upgrading our AEPS. As we continue to experience impacts of climate change and see more business leaders embracing clean energy, I am optimistic that bipartisan support for these and other important environmental initiatives will grow.
On Earth Day 1970, Pennsylvania enacted its Environmental Rights Amendment to the Constitution stating: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. 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.”
We continue to share a responsibility to preserve and restore our environment as a matter of upholding our constitution and keeping the promise of a safe, strong, clean, and healthy future for our children and grandchildren.
Senator Carolyn T. Comitta proudly represents Pennsylvania’s 19th District and is a leader in championing our communities, defending our environment, and working to ensure a safer, cleaner, and brighter future for the next generation of Pennsylvanians and beyond.
Carolyn began her professional career as a public school teacher and curriculum advisor, developing special and gifted education programs for the Octorara Area School District. She has combined her lifelong passion for teaching and learning with the need to address the climate crisis threatening our planet. Carolyn is an active member of World Information Transfer, a nonprofit United Nations NGO focused on educating people and communities about the connection between our environment and public health.
Carolyn lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania with her husband, Tom. They have two grown children and two young grandchildren.