Recently confirmed Corbett DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo thinks Pennsylvania, the nation’s third largest source of energy pollution, has already done it’s “fair share” to stop catastrophic climate change, and this has been the Corbett administration’s attitude for years.
That’s why the new draft Climate Change Action Plan doesn’t have any recommendation for action on an emissions reduction target, as previous iterations have had.
Katie Valentine says they only list a bunch of options for what we could do, and then basically shrug. The Corbett DEP wants to pretend they don’t have any power to change policy, but of course that’s wrong. They just don’t want to.
That’s not to let PA lawmakers in the legislature off the hook though – we’ve known for years what needs to happen but the laws aren’t getting passed.
It starts with canceling the almost $3 billion worth of annual tax subsidies for dirty energy in our state tax code.
There are also plenty of things the draft report says we could do to crack down on pollution from extractive industries, but I want to focus on the most politically challenging topic: land use and transportation.
The report says about a quarter of the GHG emissions come from our land use and transportation systems. Arguably some of the other sources of GHG pollution are related to land use too, but 25% is still really high and bringing that down will require significant changes. And the solution isn’t tougher fuel economy and building energy use standards – it’s fewer and shorter car trips, achieved through curbs on new suburban development plus increased urban infill development. From the report:
Brownfields redevelopment can be considered a sustainable practice because existing infrastructure is often re-used. Buildings, water and sewer services are already in place, so the need for new manufactured materials is reduced. The use of brownfields for housing and new industrial or commercial uses decreases “greenfield” development, which often results in loss of vegetation and trees.
Greenhouse gases are reduced when “greenfields” are kept green. Communities that promote the growth of public transportation and alternative walking/biking modes of travel would see a reduction in greenhouse gases due to less vehicle traffic and reduced emissions.
You’re probably used to hearing “brownfields” in the context of former industrial lands, but it should be read broadly here as including central cities.
What they’re saying is that channeling population growth into cities, where people walk and bike more and drive less, and away from low-density suburban and rural areas where people have to drive more is an important climate change mitigation strategy.
They don’t “endorse” it because they don’t endorse anything, but lawmakers need to understand the importance and they need to start changing state laws to stop further suburban sprawl. The urgency of climate change means this is a state problem, not just a local problem, and it’s why the recent court decison on Act 13 affirming local zoning powers is so disturbing.
We can’t wait for 2548 different municipal governments to start doing this stuff. We need to start overriding local zoning from the state level to block further sprawl, and reign in central city politicians’ power to block infill development, by instituting stronger urban property rights:
Statewide land use and transportation policies that follow more sustainable “smart growth” principles that generate fewer private auto trips, promote the use of transit and non-motorized modes, and protect open spaces could minimize the generation of associated GHGs. Smart growth seeks to create more compact communities throughout the state, featuring walkable communities of concentrated development and a mixture of land uses that generate less vehicle traffic while being more supportive of auto trip-reduction measures, such as transit, non- motorized modes and TDM programs, such as car sharing, carpooling, etc. Smart growth also sites commercial and industrial facilities and growth with ready access to an efficient, multimodal freight transportation system.
Investing in growth recognizes that public transportation is first and foremost a public service, and that the sustainability of transit systems and services is dependent on demonstrating sound management practices and prudent use of public funding to attract and retain riders.
As the state’s overall and special-needs populations increase, efficient and effective personal mobility are increasingly necessary in the present and emerging economies. When high- occupancy modes are provided efficiently and used effectively, they decrease GHGs and other harmful emissions. Land development plans and implementations that provide sufficient density and connectivity for the institution of efficient and effective transit services are integral to system and ridership growth.