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That Makes 23 States: Pennsylvania Joins U.S. Climate Alliance

Pennsylvania is now the 23rd state to sign on with the U.S. Climate Alliance, as Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday announced the release of the new Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan.

Electric cars atop the Los Angeles Police Department parking lot
Electric cars, primarily used by civilian officers, atop the Los Angeles Police Department parking lot.
(AP/Nick Ut)
By Deb Erdley

Pennsylvania is now the 23rd state to sign on with the U.S. Climate Alliance, as Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday announced the release of the new Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan.

Calling for a renewed commitment to uphold the tenants of the 2015 international Paris Climate Accord that President Trump eschewed, Wolf said Pennsylvania will join 22 other states and Puerto Rico in a bipartisan coalition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"With the federal government turning its back on science and the environment, I am proud to join with states that are leading the way towards new climate solutions, and taking concrete actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. States like Pennsylvania must take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our communities, economies, infrastructures, and environments from the risks of a warming climate," said Wolf, a second-term Democrat.

The announcement followed an executive order Wolf issued in January to set Pennsylvania's first statewide climate goals. The order calls reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, compared with 2005 levels. It also established a Green Government Council to ensure that state government offices work to achieve those goals.

The 231-page, 10-year Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan 2018 developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection and state officials lists more than 100 actions that could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including boosting renewable energy production , promoting energy efficient buildings and increasing the use of electric vehicles. It estimated that just 15 of those steps could reduce emissions 21 percent by 2025.

Wolf's decision to join the Climate Change Alliance comes a month after a hearing in the GOP-controlled state House that featured Gregory Wrightstone, a Pittsburgh-area geologist and climate change skeptic.

On Monday, environmental groups -- some of which previously questioned the governor's commitment to action on climate change -- applauded the Wolf administration's move.

"By joining the Climate Alliance, Gov. Wolf is assuming the mantle of leadership to fight climate change and ensure Pennsylvania is part of the solution," said Mark Szybist, a senior attorney with the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council. "We look forward to strong actions from the executive branch and our leaders in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to scale-up clean energy, establish an enforceable, declining limit on carbon pollution and put people to work while building a clean energy future that benefits all Pennsylvanians."

Andrew Williams, of the Environmental Defense Fund, also based in New York, said the plan offered a meaningful path to address climate change protect Pennsylvania communities and preserve "a healthy economy."

"The biggest area of opportunity is aggressively limiting carbon emissions from the power sector. Power sector limits coupled with direct regulation of methane emissions are the 1-2 punch in the fight against climate change that, if implemented, can put Pennsylvania on the road to success," Williams said.

Trump in 2017 drew the ire of many Western Pennsylvania politicians when he announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris pact by quipping: "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

A full-page advertisement in the New York Times placed by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and two dozen local politicians read, in part:

"Pittsburghers overwhelmingly support action on climate change. We want to grow clean energy jobs and a strong economy. We want our families to breath healthy air and reduce pollution."

"And we want to leave a healthy and safe planet where we've addressed and solved climate change -- for our kids and future generations."

(c)2019 Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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