Pennsylvania Assembly Passes First Global Warming Law

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, July 3, 2008 (ENS) – Global warming legislation will be enacted for the first time in Pennsylvania when Governor Ed Rendell signs the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act as he is expected to do. The measure was overwhelmingly approved today by both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

A coal-rich state, Pennsylvania emits one percent of the world’s greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, more than the emissions of 105 developing countries combined.

While Pennsylvania is a big contributor to global warming, the legislation passed today creates opportunities for the state to be part of the solution.

The measure will require Pennsylvania to conduct an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and set up a registry for business and industry where they can track their emissions and get credit for pollution reductions.

The bill provides for an stakeholder advisory group for the state Department of Environmental Protection and requires the DEP to develop a state plan to reduce emissions.

“This will be a good planning tool for Pennsylvania to help with coordination of the various measures the state has implemented and those it should implement to combat climate change in the future,” said state Representative Greg Vitali, a Democrat from Delaware County who introduced the measure in the House.

In the Senate, the bill was sponsored by state Senator Ted Erickson, a Republican whose district includes part of Delaware County, which is located just west of Philadelphia
Pennsylvania’s Montour coal-fired power plant (Photo courtesy Mark Morey)

Vitali said, “Climate change is the most important environmental problem we’re dealing with in Pennsylvania – we produce a full one percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emission. I applaud Senator Erickson, and thank everyone for the work they’ve done to keep this issue alive in both chambers over the years.”

Vitali said initial language for global warming legislation was drafted nearly a decade ago by Don Brown, currently an associate professor of environmental ethics and program director for ethical dimensions of climate change at Penn State University. He is the former senior counsel for sustainable development at DEP, and has worked for both the state and federal governments on environmental issues.

“Don Brown came up with the initial idea of this legislation, drafted the language for the original bill, and his knowledge and counsel have been invaluable to this process and the issue of global warming,” Vitali said.

“Senator Erickson’s bill is a good bill that incorporates those same principles. I think this is a historic moment in our state’s history – a time that will prove to be a turning point in our endeavors to curb global warming as a state.”

Environmentalists are pleased with the bill. Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, known as PennFuture, praised the legislators on both sides of the aisle who moved the bill forward.

“This bipartisan outpouring of support shows the seriousness of our climate problem, and the determination of our elected officials to face it squarely,” said Jan Jarrett, PennFuture’s vice president.

“They understand that global warming poses a threat to our economy and our future if we don’t take action,” said Jarrett, “and they also understand that solving the problem will help grow the green economy and create new jobs.”

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council today praised passage of the Climate Change Act. “This legislation will help Pennsylvania address both the significant challenges and the potential opportunities associated with climate change,” said John Walliser, the Council’s vice president for legal and governmental affairs. “Climate change will affect our economy, environment, and our quality of life.”

“Both Senator Erickson and Representative Vitali took the lead on the need to fully evaluate what climate change will mean to Pennsylvania for the foreseeable future,” said Walliser. “Thanks to their cooperation on seeing this legislation through, Pennsylvania now stands ready to meet this challenge head-on and even find opportunities for further economic development.”

The General Assembly is considering legislation that would encourage the use of biofuels, promote the development of renewable energy sources, and set energy conservation standards for new buildings.

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