Climate Change and Carbon Emissions Hearing
I participated in a Senate Democratic Policy hearing recently that took place in Pittsburgh to address climate change in Pennsylvania by controlling carbon emissions. In attendance were several state senators who heard testimony from several stakeholders in the industry including the Environmental Defense Fund, a doctor that treats conditions often associated with environmental factors, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the National Electrical Contractors Association, the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, Sierra Club, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the City of Pittsburgh. I found it beneficial to hear arguments from all sides of climate change and carbon emissions and the impact it has had on their organizations and industries.
Controlling air pollution is not a new endeavor. The federal Clean Air Act passed in 1963 to help undergo this task on a national level and has been amended several times as scientists have gained a greater understanding of the types and causes of pollutants and their disastrous effects. In 2014, the Clean Power Plan was proposed to reduce emissions from coal-fire burning plants, which is the largest source of greenhouse gases, and increase the use of renewable energy. Overall, the plan called for the reduction of CO2 emissions by 32 percent by 2030.
In the meantime, 27 states challenged the regulations and a multistate lawsuit was established by trade associations, utilities and coal companies claiming the Clean Power Plan was overstepping its regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act. For this reason, the Clean Power Plan was not enacted as the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily put a hold on the implementation while the case is reviewed. When President Trump took office, he signed an executive order that delayed the court proceedings to allow the Environmental Protection Agency, who was tasked with administering the plan, to rewrite the regulations which many environmentalists feel takes the United States backwards.
One must also factor in that President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord in June 2017. This historic pact between 196 nations that was signed less than two years prior in which the counties vowed to adopt green energy sources, cut down on climate change emissions and limit the rise of global temperatures. The accord acknowledges that the threat of climate change is urgent and potentially irreversible and the cooperation between nearly 200 nations was essential to make deep reductions in global emissions.
As we witnessed in the policy hearing, many environmental organizations have expressed that Pennsylvania needs to push forward with the implementation and goals set forth by the commonwealth in the Clean Power Plan regardless of the pending court’s final decision. Our state is already experiencing the ecological, economical and health impact climate change has had on our society. These groups were quick to point out the various ways the commonwealth has seen climate change including the severe storms that have caused everything from flooding to blizzards to droughts due to extreme heat waves. These have all had a negative effect on our agriculture which is the state’s number one industry.
On the other hand, testimony provided by the coal industry and pro-utility businesses feel that they have already made great strides forward in utilizing more clean and renewable energy and the additional strict guidelines will continue to have a negative impact on their business. Representatives from coal companies have stated that government actions have limited customer choice and the higher standards put in place have become a job killer for their industry. They also expressed that renewable energy like wind, hydro and solar power are not as reliable as coal since there is an abundance of this resource in Pennsylvania.
There is no question that Pennsylvania needs to look at their policies when it comes to climate change and carbon emissions since our state is the country’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Overall, I think it is important that the commonwealth continues the path that we are on to make significant investments in clean energy while at the same time implementing policies that would create family-sustaining jobs.
Open Enrollment on HealthCare.gov
I want to remind everyone that open enrollment on the health insurance marketplace started on Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 15. You can shop for plans, sign up, renew, or find someone to assist you through the process, all by visiting www.healthcare.gov.
Please know that funding for open enrollment and consumer help has been reduced. Healthcare.gov will be down for maintenance for several hours nearly every Sunday during open enrollment. The website will go offline for 12 hours, from midnight until noon, every Sunday except Dec. 9, 2018.
There is great concern that the shorter enrollment period and the reduced funding for open enrollment will decrease the number of people signing up for health insurance. So please share this news with anyone you know who wishes to shop for plans on the marketplace and direct them to Healthcare.gov to sign up for health insurance for 2019.
LIHEAP is Open
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program helps low income families pay their heating bills. You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website (www.compass.state.pa.us). You can also pick up an application in my district offices or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website. Completed paper applications should be returned to the Allegheny County Assistance Office, located at 5947 Penn Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. The income limits for this season are as follows:
After your application is received you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive. Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel provider and will be credited to your heating account. Crisis grants may also be available if you have an emergency situation and are in jeopardy of losing your heat. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The deadline to submit an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for the 2017 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is Dec. 31, 2018. Applications are available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded.
The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Funding for Environmental Education Projects
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) invites schools, nonprofit organizations, and businesses to apply for 2019 Environmental Education Grants to support a wide range of enviro-education projects.
General grants of up to $25,000 will be awarded to larger, one-year, regional or statewide initiatives. Mini-grants of up to $3,000 will be awarded to one-year projects of any size.
Examples of eligible enviro-education projects include educating participants on climate change adaptation or the impact of emissions on public health, offering training on the DEP permitting process, connecting city residents to nature, and instruction on reducing abandoned mine drainage or non-point-source water pollution from fertilizers.
Applications must be submitted online through eGrants (first-time users need to register). The application deadline is January 11, 2019, at 11:59 PM.
Grant application guidelines and instructions are available at https://www.dep.pa.gov/citizens/environmentaleducation/grants/pages/default.aspx.
Did You Know…
Did you know that the Environmental Education Grants Program was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1993, which mandates setting aside five percent of the pollution fines and penalties DEP collects annually for environmental education in Pennsylvania and to date the program has provided more than $11.8 million in grants to more than 1,850 organizations?
Governor’s School for the Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has announced that the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences (PGSS) at Carnegie Mellon University is now accepting applications from talented high school juniors for the summer 2019 program. The program runs from June 30, 2019 – August 3, 2019.
PGSS is an intensive, five-week summer residential program, which emphasizes cooperative learning and hands-on laboratory research, for 56 talented high school juniors pursuing careers in science and mathematics.
With the support of Governor Tom Wolf, the state Department of Education, Carnegie Mellon University and the school’s alumni, the program offers an enrichment experience in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The goal of the program is to encourage Pennsylvania’s youth to pursue careers in STEM-related fields.
Accepted applicants will receive a full scholarship to the program. Costs are underwritten through matching funds provided by PGSS Campaign, Inc., the school’s alumni, Carnegie Mellon University, parents and corporations.
Awarded scholarships will cover the costs of housing, meals and all instructional materials. Families are responsible for transportation to and from the university, personal items and spending money. Students must commit to living on campus at Carnegie Mellon University throughout the duration of the program.
Completed applications must be emailed per instructions on the website http://sciences.pa-gov-schools.org no later than January 31, 2019. Applications emailed after this date and time will be disqualified. For additional information about the program and to complete an application, visit http://sciences.pa-gov-schools.org.
Allegheny County Holiday Music Program
The 51st Annual Allegheny County Holiday Music Program kicked off last week at the County Courthouse, located at 436 Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh. All concerts are held on the Grand Staircase of the County Courthouse. Performances will be held each weekday through Thursday, Dec. 20. There will be thirty performances by thirty-two local choirs, orchestras and bands in this year’s program including several featuring students residing in the 42nd Senatorial District. For a full Holiday Music Program schedule, please visit www.alleghenycounty.us.
Today is National Cookie Day! 72 percent of Americans consider “soft and chewy” their favorite cookie texture and 41 percent of millennials name chocolate chip cookies as their favorite cookie.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216