PennFuture issues ten-point plan to mend state's environmental and economic problems

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future today released an agenda outlining the environmental and public health challenges facing the new governor Mark Schweiker.

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 2, 2001 — As the Commonwealth prepares for the unexpected ascension of Lt. Governor Mark Schweiker to the Governor's office, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) today released an agenda outlining the environmental and public health challenges and solutions facing the next Governor and his potential successors, Barbara Hafer, Mike Fisher, Bob Casey and Ed Rendell.

"Despite the Pennsylvania Constitution's guarantee that, 'The people have a right to clean air, pure water and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment,' our state has one of the most polluted environments in the nation," stated John Hanger, President and CEO of PennFuture.

"Our environmental problems and their related public health problems are caused by weak enforcement of existing laws, the failure of energy policies to promote clean energy and efficiency, reformation of laws at the behest of polluters, and too little investment in our open spaces and waterways," continued Hanger. "The state's budget and tax policies do little to create incentives to prevent and reduce environmental damage. And our economy continues to suffer."

The PennFuture report details Pennsylvania's dubious leadership in the "Pollution Hall of Shame," from serving as the nation's garbage dump, to having the second worst acid rain in the country, to contributing more global warming gases than 83 nations, to having more than 3,000 miles of streams damaged by acid mine pollution to fish contaminated by toxic PCBs and deadly mercury, to having more than 2,250 Pennsylvanians die each year from soot pollution from outdated and dangerous power plants. The report also details how these and other environmental problems have caused Pennsylvania to lag in economic development and attracting workers.

But the report also features ways that a new administration could turn the situation around and move Pennsylvania into a positive era of environmental and economic leadership. PennFuture's top ten solutions for fulfilling the state's constitutional promise include:

— Committing to fully fund the current Growing Greener program, and expanding state funding to $1.3 billion for environmental protection and clean up to match the need and similar commitments made by neighboring states;

— Adopting a statewide energy policy that invests in new, renewable energy sources, technology and policies that encourage wise energy use, and public policies that reward sound energy use;

— Developing an annual inventory of global gas emissions, and designing and implementing programs to reduce Pennsylvania's contribution to global climate change;

— Adopting tax reforms that shift taxes away from investment, income and property and make polluters pay for the damage they cause;

— Protecting coal communities from destruction to their personal property, their water supplies and their watersheds and streams from devastation caused by mining;

— Preventing rural Pennsylvanians from being held hostage by massive factory farms, and protecting the health of all Pennsylvanians from the problems caused by the unwarranted use of antibiotics by these animal factories;

— Ending Pennsylvania's leadership in trash importation through a moratorium on expansion permits, higher fees and increased attention and support for recycling; and

— Returning government to the people, and away from the highest bidder, by supporting public financing and campaign reform.

"Now, more than ever, our state needs a bold leader, who will seize the opportunities we face and lead Pennsylvania into an economic and environmental renaissance," concluded Hanger. "The people of Pennsylvania are waiting — and hoping — for just such a leader."

PennFuture, which has offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, is a statewide public interest membership organization that advances policies to protect and improve the state's environment and economy. PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state and federal courts, advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level, public education and assisting citizens in public advocacy.

The entire PennFuture Report, "Greening the Environment, Growing the Economy: An Environmental Agenda for State Government," is available on the Internet at http://www.pennfuture.org.

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