EDITORIAL: Healthy Yorkers need healthy environment

York Dispatch

Here’s something worth celebrating, Yorkers continue to be among the top 20 healthiest county residents in Pennsylvania.

More:York County receives good bill of health, with a few exceptions

Now if only state and federal representatives would do their part to help residents stay that way.

First the good news.

The 2018 County Health Rankings, an annual report conducted by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found York County ranked Number 19 statewide in health outcomes and Number 13 in health factors.

Health outcomes are determined by factors such as length and quality of life, while health factor measures things like clinical care, health behaviors and physical environment.

Other than the fact that a third of its residents are clinically obese, York County’s population is in pretty good shape. Access to clinical care is among the top 10 best in the state, and physical activity is above state average — a reflection of the many outdoors opportunities in the area and concerted efforts by local groups to encourage the public to take advantage of them.

That success comes in the face of substantial headwinds — often-polluted headwinds at that: The report found York County’s physical environment is third worst in the state.

That echoes past findings, including a 2016 “State of the Air” report by the American Lung Foundation that found local air quality among the worst in the nation.

That’s no surprise to local residents, who have long endured air quality degraded by ozone and small-article pollutants such as microscopic dust from coal-burning power plants and diesel trucks, among other sources.

And conditions will only worsen, if President Donald Trump has his way. The least environmentally friendly president in memory has already turned his back on the Paris Climate Accord, repealed the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and proposed slashing funds for important environmental programs, many of which would directly affect Pennsylvania.

More:At Paris climate summit, Trump held up as a villain

One such example: The administration has proposed cutting the demonstrably successful Chesapeake Bay Program — which has reversed pollution and erased so-called “dead zones” in the bay. Pennsylvania is one of six states, along with Washington, D.C., that contributes to — and, as part of the bay’s watershed, benefits from — the initiative.

More:EDITORIAL: Trump budget continues assault on environment

Administration cuts would knee-cap a variety of other state resources, including grants for air quality management, pollution control, and wetlands program development.

So state leaders must step up and do their constitutionally mandated duty by fighting these environmental threats.

That’s right: constitutionally mandated. In 1971, state voters approved an Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution.

According to Article I, Section 27: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

With the federal Environmental Protection Agency being defunded and defanged, voters must press their state-level representatives on environmental issues this fall — up to and including Gov. Tom Wolf and likely challenger state Sen. Scott Wagner. 

Local resident are doing their part to stay healthy. Local lawmakers must do theirs to make sure constituents in York County — and Pennsylvania’s other 66 counties — have a healthy environment in which to do so