Harrisburg – April 22, 2021 – At the request of Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D- Allegheny), the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a virtual round table discussion on the future of clean energy development and clean energy jobs in Pennsylvania. This hearing was held on Earth Day to honor the history of environmental stewardship this day represents, and to acknowledge the importance of preserving our environment.
“There was a reason president Joe Biden unveiled his historic infrastructure plan here in Pittsburgh,” Costa said. “Our city got its start in the industrial revolution, but as our world has evolved so must the infrastructure that keeps us going. We need clean energy sources that lead us into the future, powered by men and women in family sustaining jobs. Our earth does not have infinite resources, and it is our duty to protect and preserve the health and resources of our planet for future generations.”
As Dr. Patricia DeMarco, Ph.D. and Vice President of the Forest Hills Borough Council, noted, the first Earth Day 51 years ago was strongly driven by the AFL-CIO and the labor movement.
“Our members live and play here, too,” said Kris Anderson, International Representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). He noted that this is one of the major reasons that his union and its members are invested in a clean environment. They know that they and their families will benefit from the clean air, clean water, and sustainable ecosystem it will create.
Joshua McNeil, Executive Director at Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania and Vice-President for Civic Engagement at PennFuture, said that he and his organizations believe that President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Act is, “a historic opportunity to invest in infrastructure.”
Darrin Kelly, Allegheny-Fayette County Labor Council President also said that he is very optimistic about President Biden’s plan, and that getting that funding out of D.C. and into our local communities will be a huge part in implementing positive change and developing opportunities for local workers.
Dr. DeMarco spoke about her work with Reimagine Appalachia and their mission to create a 21stcentury sustainable economy. She said that Pennsylvania could implement a similar mission, and use the process that Reimagine Appalachia did in engaging stakeholders and community members in discussions on all of their priorities to make sure the changes they want to implement are truly benefitting community members and the regions they live in.
McNeil noted that Pennsylvania should recommit to a Blue Green Alliance to make sure that all bills in the Pennsylvania legislature have equal input from both environmental and labor stakeholders. He said it is crucial that these movements are working in conjunction with each other at every step as we transition Pennsylvania from a extraction economy to a regenerative economy.
Anderson, of IBEW, said that as we work to a more sustainable future and cleaner energy sources to power our nation, it is important to also keep things focused on Pennsylvania and its workers’ safety. He said that while larger industries are focused on profit, keeping the workforce and our industries local is better for our economy and allows the state to implement regulations in the clean energy industry that will be transparent and prioritize the workers and communities themselves.
“People who are going to get funding from the federal government are going to be the people with a plan,” Dr. DeMarco said. She said that as focus at the national level shifts to a sustainable economy, Pennsylvania needs to be proactive in making plans for a clean energy future or they will have plans from larger institutions forced upon them and those plans may not be focused on what is best for our local communities.
Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D- Chester), Democratic Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, said that we need to be looking at the who is represented when we have these conversations, particularly minority communities and communities of color who are disproportionally effected by industrial pollution and other environmental hazards.
Sen. Costa and Sen. Katie Muth (D- Berks/Chester/Montgomery) said that they were very pleased to have the commitment of the labor community and the environmental community to work closely together in the future, and they will be looking to have more conversations similar to today’s going forward.
“It is both timely and necessary that we are having this discussion today on Earth Day. The information and dialogue heard today further emphasizes the need to take urgent action to combat the climate crisis, and simultaneously work to transition from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy; where production and industry cycles are waste-free, not harmful to workers, communities, or the planet,” Muth said. “Impacted entities need to be at the table to ensure a just transition to a cleaner, greener, economically sustainable Pennsylvania.”
Below are all who participated in today’s discussion:
- Dr. Patricia DeMarco, Ph.D., Borough of Forest Hills, Vice President, Borough Council
- Darrin Kelly, Allegheny-Fayette County Labor Council, President
- Joshua McNeil, Executive Director, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania and Vice-President for Civic Engagement, PennFuture
- Kris Anderson, International Representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)