Friday, November 7, 2014

5 Simple Things that Governor Tom Wolf can do for Pennsylvania’s Environment

UPDATE 1.29.2015 - Governor Wolf signed an executive order placing a moratorium on new leasing for oil and gas drilling in our state parks and forests.   This action reinstates a 2010 moratorium on new leases of state lands that was established after agency review determined that no additional state forest acreage was suitable for natural gas development without compromising its natural character.


In the last four years, Governor Corbett and the Pennsylvania House and Senate have made repeated attacks on environmental protection and sought to maximize the profits of the gas, oil and coal industries at the expense of Pennsylvania’s health and safety.  

The November 4th election saw the loss of pro-environment seats in both houses of the legislature, predicting further attacks on the environment.  Fortunately, Governor-Elect Tom Wolf will have significant power to block those attacks and to move forward on crucial environmental protections, and has promised a cleaner future for Pennsylvania. 

Clean Water Action, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, PennEnvironment, PennFuture, and the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter congratulate Governor-Elect Wolf on his victory and look forward to working with his administration to protect Pennsylvania’s environment. 

To that end, these organizations urge Governor-Elect Wolf to prioritize the following during his first 100 days in office.

·         Save Pennsylvania’s State Parks and Forests
·         Plan for the Future on Climate and Energy
·         Let the Department of Environmental Protection Protect the Environment
·         Keep Our Water Safe
·         Regulate Methane and Clean Up Pennsylvania’s Air

Using the executive authority of the Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf can and should:

Save State Parks and Forests
In 2014, Corbett overturned a 2010 executive order that created a moratorium on gas leasing in public lands managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Wolf should reinstate that order and make it clear that the order applies to both state parks and state forests, and to both surface and subsurface leases. Wolf should do everything in his power to prevent natural gas development in the Clarence Moore lands of the Loyalsock State Forest.

Plan for the Future
Both state and federal laws will require Pennsylvania to adopt new plans to reduce global warming pollution in the coming years. Wolf should produce climate and energy plans based on sound science and focused on rebuilding the wind and solar industries in the state.

Let the Department of Environmental Protection Protect the Environment
Wolf can reverse Corbett’s damage to the DEP’s commitment and ability to enforce environmental regulations.  He can start by implementing the recommendations of the state Auditor General to ensure both full transparency and strong enforcement of gas drilling rules.  Wolf should overhaul the DEP’s permitting process for gas drilling and create mandatory enforcement penalties to ensure that public health trumps politics and profits in gas operations.  Finally, he should instruct the DEP to ban fracking waste pits, a simple way to significantly reduce the health risks of toxic fracking chemicals.

Keep Our Water Safe
The Delaware River Basin Commission currently prohibits fracking in the Delaware River Watershed, from which 15 million Americans get their drinking water.  Wolf should publicly restate his support for the moratorium, seek to restore the Commission’s budget, and ensure that the DRBC Commissioner from Pennsylvania works to keep our water clean.  Additionally, he should push the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to launch a cumulative impact assessment of fracking on the Susquehanna watershed.

Regulate Methane and Clean Up Pennsylvania’s Air
Pennsylvania ranks among the worst states in the nation for air pollution and illnesses like asthma. Currently, Pennsylvania does not directly regulate methane pollution from natural gas operations and lags behind other states in controlling air emissions. Governor-Elect Wolf should work with DEP to directly regulate methane emissions from natural gas operations. Additionally, Pennsylvania should enact a strong “Smog Rule,” to limit pollutants like nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds.  

To implement these policies, Governor-Elect Wolf needs to build a team of agency leaders committed to environmental protection and independent of the special interests that these bodies oversee – new leadership for the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Public Utilities Commission, the Delaware River Basin Commission, and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

Leaders of these agencies should know that climate change is a problem; enthusiastically support renewable energy, clean air, and clean water; and understand that their first duty is to protect the health and safety of Pennsylvania’s citizens.

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