On Jan. 14, state officials wrapped up a 60-day public comment period to gauge Pennsylvanians' interest in joining the nation’s most successful state-level program to fight climate change: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). During this period PennEnvironment took the opportunity to make a full-court press to show the broad and deep statewide support for tackling climate change and joining this successful program.
Some highlights from PennEnvironment's work to engage Pennsylvanians and opinion leaders on this vital issue included:
- Our staff and volunteers digitally collected nearly 3,000 comments from our network of activists, concerned citizens and members -- more than 20 percent of all input submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP).
- We recruited nearly 300 community leaders, including local elected officials, environmental and community groups, faith leaders, public health experts, and business owners to submit comments in support of RGGI and the state’s obligation to reduce climate pollution. The goal: To show that support for tackling climate change is supported by not only the general public, but also Pennsylvania’s opinion leaders.
- We enlisted more than 30 state legislators and 60 local elected officials to submit their own comments in support of RGGI during the public comment period.
- We signed up 65 PennEnvironment members and volunteers to testify at one of the 10 virtual hearings held by PA-DEP. In total, more than 400 Pennsylvanians testified at these hearings and nearly 95 percent of the speakers spoke in support of the program.
- We hosted two webinars to educate Pennsylvanians about RGGI. Our webinars were attended by more than 350 Pennsylvanians. At the virtual events they learned about the RGGI’s success in other states and the benefits RGGI offers to public health.
- Our staff and volunteers submitted more than 65 letters to the editor to newspapers across the state to inform local residents about DEP’s RGGI public comment period. This effort resulted in 25 printed letters, including ones in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The Intelligencer and PennLive.
- We published op-eds about RGGI in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Penn Live, and the Reading Eagle.
The overwhelming support for joining RGGI that we built during this comment period clearly reflects Pennsylvanians desire for concrete action to reduce climate pollution. It also serves as a stark reminder to Pennsylvania’s elected officials that our state’s residents expect them to spend less time listening to lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry, who are working to convince our leaders to continue our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.
While the comment period is complete, PennEnvironment’s work isn’t done. We will now defend RGGI from legislative attacks that are sadly expected to come up in the General Assembly over the next several months. Nevertheless, we’re confident that our organizing during the public comment period will help remind decision makers that any efforts to stall climate action aren’t palatable to the public.
At the same time, we will continue our work with the state legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf to take other much-needed steps to further reduce our climate pollution, including renewing Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) law; ensuring more funding for the state's public transportation systems; incentivizing wind and solar power; and advancing legislation to promote electric vehicle infrastructure in the commonwealth.
Of course, it’s PennEnvironment’s huge network of members and volunteers who made this campaign such a success and continue to make all of our work possible. And it’s this citizen vigilance and advocacy that has kept the drumbeat going for climate solutions here and across the country.