Casey says climate change mitigation should be high priority
Sen. Bob Casey, D- Pa., said Friday that meaningful federal action to mitigate the impact of man- made climate change is needed but unlikely unless the upcoming election puts Democrats in control of the White House and Senate.
Preaching to a mostly deepgreen choir of about 300 during an hourlong Zoom hookup sponsored by Penn-Environment, a statewide environmental organization, Mr. Casey said climate action is “important, essential and urgent.” He coupled that with a call for retraining and skill development for workers displaced by a necessary shift to a more sustainable economy less reliant on carbon emissions.
“We need policies that create and retain jobs but complement climate change policy,” Mr. Casey said. “We need a New Deal-style jobs program that’s federally supported and that can rebuild our economic infrastructure.”
He said the nation and state already are experiencing climate change in the form of more extreme weather, flooding, droughts, bigger hurricanes, sea level rise, warming oceans, agricultural changes, and migration of invasive species such as the spotted lantern fly, the hemlock woolly adelgid and Lyme diseasecarrying ticks.
“We’re seeing its impacts now. It isn’t some future threat,” Mr. Casey said. “But our future will be very dark if we don’t take action.”
He said that’s especially true in poorer areas and communities of color that can have disproportionate exposure to the impact of climate change.
Pennsylvania already is dealing with climate change, including rising temperatures that impact both rural and urban areas, and changes in farm crops, forest species and winter recreation and tourism. Rising sea levels are causing salt water to move up the Delaware River estuary, endangering public drinking water supplies along the eastern edge of the state, he said.
“Agriculture is the top Pennsylvania industry and our farmers are dealing with floods, drought and pests as the frontline managers of land in the state,” Mr. Casey said. “Fortyeight of the 67 counties are considered rural, so it’s essential to have our farmers at the table and have their support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
He said the Trump administration is “moving in the wrong direction on climate change,” citing its pullout from the Paris Climate Accords and rollbacks of the Clean Power plan, which would have reduced emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants, and the methane rule, which sought to reduce
emissions of the potent greenhouse gas.
A new Democratic administration and a Senate majority would provide “an opportunity for bold action,” he said, “but we still have a long way to go and we need to win more elections to make progress.”
Comments posted on the call by numerous participants opposed hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in the state’s Marcellus and Utica shale gas regions, and PennEnvironment wants it banned. But Mr. Casey said he favors stronger federal regulation, monitoring and enforcement of the process and full public disclosure of chemicals used.
“I support responsible gas extraction, including tough regulation at the federal and state levels and the resources that that level of regulation requires,” he said.
Mr. Casey introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals ( FRAC) Act, which would require oil and gas companies to disclose chemicals used in the fracking process and allow the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate and monitor those operations.
Mr. Casey’s participation on the Zoom call preceded the release Wednesday by the Walton Family Foundation of a poll that shows a broad national consensus in favor of quick action to address climate change.
“Addressing the impacts of climate change is a priority for nearly all Americans, regardless of geography or political perspective,” said Moira Macdonald, the foundation’s environment program director. “The results of the poll should give philanthropists, advocates, environmentalists, and policymakers the insight and inspiration to think and act boldly to protect our resources and communities.”
PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur said the majority of Pennsylvanians support climate action and efforts by Gov. Tom Wolf to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a consortium of 10 Mid- Atlantic and New England states formed to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.
“There’s bipartisan support for bold legislative action in Washington and Harrisburg to enable a transition to renewables and a brighter future,” Mr. Masur said.