OP-ED: Pa. citizens more concerned about environment than lawmakers

Stephanie Myers
York City

It’s a mystery how the walls of the Pennsylvania Capitol insulate our legislators from the reality of the climate crisis.

Outside the walls, the youth of the world leave their classrooms and strike to get the attention of seemingly feckless government leaders.

Citizens are forging ahead, buying electric vehicles and putting solar arrays on their homes, although, due to lackluster Pennsylvania incentives, we lag behind the rest of the northeastern states. Others are switching to renewable energy providers. Still others are rejecting plastic in as many forms as possible.

All of these people understand that burning fossil fuels, and even the act of extracting fossil fuels for processing, is the biggest cause of the atmospheric warming that has put the planet and its inhabitants in peril. Indeed, a national Quinnipiac University poll found that 56% of registered voters believe climate change is an emergency.

FILE - In this July 25, 2019, file photo, the sun sets in Cuggiono near Milan, Italy. A new U.N. report on warming and land use says climate change is hitting us where it counts: the stomach. The scientific report on Thursday, Aug. 8, finds that as the world warms it degrades the land more. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

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How is it that the knowledge that so many ordinary people are in possession of cannot penetrate the hallowed office walls of our legislators? How is it that even our youngest better understand that the extreme, Category 5 hurricanes that have become more and more common are directly related to the cheap natural gas to which our lawmakers would chain us.

Even our governor opines one moment about the degraded world his grandson will inherit, and in the next moment promotes a natural gas economy for Pennsylvania.

Why do they not get it? Why is the General Assembly extending taxpayer dollars to promote an industry that does far more harm than good? Why do they comparatively ignore carbon-free renewable energy technology?

Last month, the state House passed a bill 139-46 that would give away billions in tax credits to incentivize huge corporations to build new polluting petrochemical plants throughout the state.

Why would anyone in their right mind base job creation on an industry that is associated with deadly health problems and climate disaster? Faced with the currently melting glaciers and sea-level rise and extreme storms, who in their right mind would refuse to promote the interests of solar and wind power, battery development and electric vehicle infrastructure?

Maybe the problem is the source of the information that those legislators receive. For years now, the natural gas industry has had a stranglehold on Pennsylvania politics. Whatever they ask for, they receive, in the form of subsidies and control over the regulatory process. They run our state. They pollute our state.

The natural gas industry employs 203 lobbyists — one for every single member of the state House. It is the job of these lobbyists to not only peddle propaganda to advance the interests of the industry, but to also extend gifts and perks to state senators and representatives (there is no gift ban in Pennsylvania). How do ordinary constituents compete with that? 

We compete by contacting our legislators as many times as necessary, and demanding that they: 1) in the absence of a gift ban, personally refuse to accept any gifts from any special interests;  2) halt all expansion of natural gas extraction, processing and pipeline permitting; and 3) refuse campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry.

Make it clear that failure to do so will result in the loss of your vote and the loss of our future. Perhaps, with enough messages like this, our legislators will finally be able to connect the dots and start defending our constitutional right to “clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment."