This was written by Vanessa Lynch, Pennsylvania field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force:
Last week, 26 Moms Clean Air Force members offered testimony at Pennsylvania’s virtual public hearings in support of the Commonwealth linking to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). We were in good company as hundreds of people testified in support of cutting climate-warming carbon dioxide pollution from the state’s dirty electric power plants.
As a part of his climate change commitment, Governor Wolf has proposed a rule to link Pennsylvania to RGGI, a cap-and-invest program among 10 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states focused on cutting carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants. The RGGI program places a decreasing “cap,” or limit, on the amount of carbon pollution power plants can emit and charges a fee for the carbon pollution power plants release into our air. The proceeds generated can be invested into state campaigns for clean energy initiatives and protections for workers and communities most impacted by air pollution and climate change.
Linking to RGGI would not only limit climate-warming carbon pollution, it would also have the benefit of decreasing harmful air pollutants such as nitrous oxide, sulfur oxide, particulate matter, and ground-level ozone. Reductions in these pollutants would in turn reduce respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, and heart disease.
A diverse group of parents, environmental justice leaders, medical professionals, business leaders, members of faith communities, students and elected officials shared their support for Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI. Here is what some of our members had to say:
Marsha Haley, MD, is a mother and a radiation oncologist living in Seven Fields just north of Pittsburgh:
“Pennsylvania has the highest rate of premature deaths from air pollution in the U.S., which results in lost productivity and higher healthcare costs. Air quality improvements in states with RGGI programs has led to public health benefits estimated at $5.7 billion.”
Cat Lodge is a mother of six and recent grandmother who lives on her family farm in Robinson Township, Washington County:
“My youngest son fell severely ill in June of this year with Lyme disease. We learned that Pennsylvania has the most cases of Lyme disease in the nation, in part due to climate impacts. This is not something to be proud of, neither is the fact that PA has the fourth dirtiest power sector in the nation due to the limitless amount of carbon pollution being spewed into our air from coal and natural gas power plants. I urge Pennsylvania’s leaders to link to RGGI in order to address the climate crisis and improve public health.”
Robert Sroufe, PhD, a professor of Sustainability at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and father of two children:
“What we have found is that the air inside our homes and buildings is two to four times better than being outside. This is in part due to coal powered utility stations like the one in Cheswick. RGGI will help to reduce these emissions and improve outdoor air quality, and improve human health and productivity.”
Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Bullock represents the 195th Legislative District which includes parts of north and west Philadelphia and is the chair of the Pennsylvania Black Caucus. Most importantly, she is the mother of two sons.
“RGGI is proven to work. It makes sense economically and environmentally… However, in considering linking to RGGI, we should also take the opportunity to address systemic structural environmental racism to improve the lives and health of Black and Brown Pennsylvanians who live in frontline communities and to not continue inherently unfair and racist policies and systems that keep frontline residents locked into environmentally harmful areas and locked out of the rewards of good policies such as cleaner affordable energy, cleaner air, and cleaner jobs.”